(CNN) – Celebrations are underway in Croatia to mark the opening of a long-awaited bridge that spans a narrow strip of Bosnia’s coastline to connect its southern Adriatic region with the rest of the country.
Co-financed by the European Union, the Pelješac bridge, which was officially launched on Tuesday, stretches between Komarna on the mainland and Brijesta on the Pelješac peninsula, providing easier access to the popular tourist spot of Dubrovnik.
The launch of the 2.4-kilometer (1.5-mile) cable-stayed structure is being hailed as a historic moment for the country, with hundreds of people turning out to be the first to cross on foot as the bridge opened to pedestrians and then motorists.
Until now, both residents and tourists had to pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina when traveling to and from the mainland’s South Dalmatia region, which meant they were subject to border controls, causing traffic delays and leaving some of them in the Adriatic. the region feels isolated.
The long-awaited Peljesac Bridge has just opened in Croatia, connecting two parts of the country’s Adriatic coastline 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 the ground and will be part of Croatia’s development history.”
Croatia and Bosnia were once among the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia.
When Croatia became independent in 1991, two sections of Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coastline were separated by a 9-kilometer (5.6 mi) stretch of Bosnian territory known as the Neum Corridor.
China Road and Bridge Corporation won an international tender to build the bridge in 2018.
The final phase, an 8-kilometer (4.9-mile) bypass near the town of Ston, near Dubrovnik, is scheduled for completion in late 2023.
While the opening of the Peljesac bridge has many joys, the project has faced criticism over the years.
Bosnian officials initially said it would affect the country’s access to the sea, prompting Croatia to increase the height of the bridge, which has four lanes of traffic.
The fact that a Chinese state-owned company was awarded the contract to build the structure also raised eyebrows.
Main image credit: Elvis Barukcic/AFP via Getty Images