HISTORY was made this week as the new West Link road in Inverness was opened to traffic.
Variations of the route to link the A82 to Dores roundabout have been on the cards since the 1960s but the ribbon was finally cut by Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael and two city children on a frosty Monday morning.
Crowds gathered on the snow-covered Holm Mills Bridge as Kinmylies P7 pupil Roddy MacLennan, son of West Link lead engineer Iain MacLennan, and P7 Holm pupil Kelsey Campbell, declared the road officially open.
And one of the first to cross the bridge was 77-year-old Sandra Wilson, who was part of a convoy of buses, cyclists, classic cars and pedestrians.
Mrs Wilson repeated history as she was one of the first people to walk across the new Ness Bridge when it was built in 1960.
She said: "It’s just wonderful to be able to walk around here, it is just lovely, especially more than 50 years after crossing the Ness Bridge."
The £55 million project also includes a new clubhouse and 4G pitch for Highland Rugby Club.
This part, phase one, has opened up active travel routes and land for housing, as the first development of almost 800 homes at Ness-side goes before Highland Council planners today.
Phase two will include a second swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal and construction of new golf holes for Torvean Golf Club to accommodate that bridge’s link to the A82. It is scheduled to begin in 2019 for completion in 2020.
Council leader Margaret Davidson said the West Link opens up opportunities to boost the economy of Inverness.
"As well as the benefits of the road itself it connects the two sides of our city as never before and makes opportunities for housing and business developments," she said.
"There is also beautiful green space which is now accessible for families, walkers and cyclists."
The official opening to traffic at noon yesterday was also welcomed by long-serving Inverness West councillor Alex Graham, who said the link road should have been built decades ago.
"I first became a councillor in 1980 and there had been long-running plans for a road like this back then," he said.
"It’s fantastic and very welcome but it’s about 40 years too late.
"It should have been built when they were building the communities of Kinmylies and Slackbuie."
But the West Link has proven controversial since it was announced in 2013.
Some critics have argued that a tunnel under the river at Torvean would have had less of an impact on the beauty of the surrounding area while others claim that the new link will not ease traffic congestion in Inverness city centre.
Councillor Allan Henderson, chairman of the environment, development and infrastructure committee, said: "The West Link project dates back to the late 1960s when concept of peripheral route on the south side of Inverness was first tested.
"Now at long last, after many decades, the West Link is a reality – delivered on time, and on budget.
"The West Link will bring numerous benefits to the area, including reducing journey times and distances for many and will therefore significantly reduce congestion and pollution in the city centre."