SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Cabrillo Boulevard Bridge Replacement project is finally complete, after nearly three years of construction and $26 million dollars spent.
Santa Barbara city leaders celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday.
The project was a huge undertaking on lower State Street by Stearns Wharf. The area is the gateway to the center of town from the waterfront. Tens of thousands of people travel daily along Cabrillo Boulevard by car, bicycle and foot.
"I think we are really seeing a renaissance of lower State Street and the waterfront," said Mayor Helene Schneider. "This is a great day to acknowledge an important piece of infrastructure."
The new bridge was upgraded to meet all structural and earthquake safety guidelines.
The water flow into Mission Creek and flood control were also improved.
"The bridge underneath will be able to hold more water to prevent flooding in the area," Schneider said.
"We are really thrilled about the attention given to habitat restoration, the gobies, the steelhead's and all of the wildlife that lives in this riparian ecosystem," said Luke Swetland, President and CEO of the Museum of Natural History and Sea Center.
Eighty-eight percent of the funding for the project came from the Federal Highway Bridge program.
The remainder was covered by the City Streets Capital Fund.
City leaders acknowledge the financial toll the project took on some businesses in the area.
"I really appreciate their patience. I hope that now that everything is done all at the same time that we can really see an influx of people coming down and enjoying everything this area has to offer," Schneider said.
Some residents are grateful to see the project come to fruition.
"I've been watching the progress," said Mary Ince of Santa Barbara. "It just feels so beautifully open and inviting and I love it. It seems to tie in so well to the surrounding landscape."
The bridge project was one of nearly a dozen happening simultaneously on Lower State Street.
The new Hotel California is taking reservations and is set to open in a few weeks.
A new restaurant called the Bluewater Grill will open on Cabrillo Boulevard in the fall.