COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - A sigh of relief across Western Saint Tammany Parish as a long awaited road construction project is finally complete.
The newly widened Highway 21 in Covington is now relieving a legendary bottleneck.
It's been 23 years since local officials asked the state to widen Highway 21 from two lanes to four and now this $17-million project is already paying dividends.
Traffic flowed smoothly across the new bridge over the Tchefuncte River along Highway 21 Tuesday as they cut the ribbon for this long-awaited project.
"This is where the growth is," said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister.
To say this project has been greatly anticipated would be an understatement. This notorious bottleneck has been a problem for ambulances and employees at the ever-expanding St. Tammany Hospital.
"First and foremost it's a safety issue with emergency vehicles coming out of this area," said Brister.
But the project is also expected to make the commute easier for hundreds of employees.
"Our hospital has 2400 employees. There are hundreds going in and out at any given time and all that traffic needs that road," said Melissa Hodgson with St Tammany Hospital.
Highway 21 serves one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. This once country corridor now hosts dozens of businesses and restaurants and serves about 30,000 drivers each day.
"This is a long-overdue project...I would love to build it before they came but it's not always the case," said Shawn Wilson with the La. Dept. of Transportation & Development.
State Highway officials are especially pleased with the new Tchefuncte bridge which features wrought iron railings and stained concrete.
"Very small cost elements that add tremendous value to it," said Wilson.
Not only will this project help western St. Tammany but it will also help relieve the strain on always busy Highway 190 which connects Mandeville to Covington.
While the planning stage took more than 20 years, the Covington widening project took nearly two years to complete.