DURANT, OK -- After four years of construction, vehicles traveled across the new US 70 Bypass for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
The city held a ribbon cutting for the $65 million stretch of highway - a project that has been in the works since 1998.
Mayor Jerry Tomlinson said it represented a day of perseverance.
"It's a day to see the fruit of the efforts of many, many others who were here early on and throughout the whole process," he said.
The Bypass stretches from the western city limits to SH 78. It will re-route through traffic around the edge of the city.
Mike Patterson, O-DOT executive director, said it will alleviate traffic inside Durant - especially from 18-wheelers.
"Which has been providing a lot of congestion. And problems with truck turning radius inside downtown has hampered traffic in downtown areas for a number of years," he said.
It will also help air quality inside city limits, he said.
"There's not going to be trucks sitting at stoplights inside the downtown area, noises, fumes from the diesel engines," Patterson said.
Tomlinson said they'll be able to better maintain city streets now that a primary US highway is no longer a main Durant street.
"It's a real detriment to the street itself. It tears up and warps the street, so to speak," he said.
And he said having a more efficient highway system will help build the economy by attracting new businesses.
"That's at the top of their list when they look at relocating or expanding," he said.
City Manager Jim Dunegan said he's seen other communities experience an economic boom after putting in a highway bypass.
"Because when you put a bypass in, the city automatically grows to it," he said.
But Tuesday's opening only marked part one of the bypass project - they'll now start on part two.
"Our next phase, which is SH 78 to the east, hooking back up with US 70 in the other end, is approximately $30 million, all included," Patterson said.
He expects that part to be completed by the end of 2014.