(CNN) – Celebrations have been held in Croatia to commemorate the opening of the long-awaited bridge that crosses a narrow strip of the Bosnian coast to connect the southern Adriatic region with the rest of the country.
Co-funded by the European Union, the Pelješac Bridge, which was officially launched on Tuesday, runs between Komarna on the mainland and Brijesta on the Pelješac Peninsula, providing easier access to the popular tourist area of Dubrovnik.
The release of the 2.4-kilometre (1.5 mi) cable-stayed structure is being hailed as a historic moment for the country, as hundreds of people turned out to be first to cross on foot as the bridge was opened to pedestrians and then to motorists.
Until now, both residents and tourists had to cross Bosnia and Herzegovina when traveling to and from the southern Dalmatia region to the mainland, which meant they were subject to border checks, causing traffic delays and leaving some of those in the Adriatic feeling isolated.
The long-awaited Pelísak Bridge has opened in Croatia, connecting two parts of the country’s coast to the Adriatic Sea while bypassing a small part of Bosnian territory.
“This bridge is a symbol of European solidarity and support for Croatia financially and politically. It will improve the lives of citizens on Earth and will be part of the development history of Croatia.”
Croatia and Bosnia were among the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia.
When Croatia became independent in 1991, two sections of Croatia’s coast were divided by the Adriatic Sea with 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) of Bosnian territory known as the Neum Pass.
China Road and Bridge Corporation won an international tender for the construction of the bridge in 2018.
The final stage, an 8-kilometre (4.9 mi) side lane near the town of Stone, near Dubrovnik, is scheduled for completion in late 2023.
While the opening of the Pelješac Bridge has plenty of joy, the project has faced criticism over the years.
Bosnian officials initially stated that it would affect the country’s access to the sea, prompting Croatia to increase the height of the bridge, which has four traffic lanes.
The fact that a Chinese state-owned company was awarded the contract to build the structure also raised eyebrows.
Highest image credit: Elvis Barukcic/AFP via Getty Images
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