MOLINE, Ill. — It's taken nearly three decades and about $1 billion to complete the new Interstate 74 Bridge. Both sides of the bridge finally opened to drivers on Thursday, Dec. 2.
As of about 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, all of the bridge's new ramps - including at Grant Street/U.S. 67 in Bettendorf and the off-ramp to River Drive in Moline - were open to drivers, and the old I-74 Bridge and the ramp to get on it were no longer accessible.
Drivers were encouraged to drive cautiously and pay attention to the roadway and traffic signs as they get used to driving on the new bridge.
Illinois and Iowa officials joined Quad Cities leaders on Wednesday morning, Dec. 1 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Following the ceremony, hundreds - if not thousands - of Quad Cities residents got the chance to step foot on the pavement of the Illinois-bound side of the bridge before it opened to motorists.
The day of historic festivities concluded Wednesday night with the lighting of the bridge in holiday colors of red and green and a magnificent firework display that reflected back over the dark waters of the Mississippi River below.
Although the bridge is now fully open to cars, there is still some work to be done on the bike path and under the bridge. The oculus glass, which will allow a crystal-clear view of the river bellow with boats passing by from underneath the bridge, is also yet to be completed. The remaining work, according to officials, is not expected to affect traffic on the bridge.
RELATED: What will happen to the old bridge?
The new I-74 Bridge, which comes in at about 2.5-times wider and 84-feet taller than the old one, was built to accommodate more than 100,000 vehicles each day and stand tall over the Mississippi for a century.
The old bridge, fully completed back in 1959 and built to handle only 48,000 cars a day, has been scheduled for demolition. Contracts for the removal will not go out until spring 2022.
Watch the moment the Illinois-bound bridge opened Thursday night: