DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been touted as a gateway to West Dallas, and now it’s open. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the first of the “signature bridges” by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is a reality.

CBS 11 News has followed the bridge’s progress for more than a decade, and reporter Bud Gillett was one of the first to cross it on Thursday.

Barricades to the eastbound lanes to downtown came down about 1:20 p.m. and in one short moment years of planning bore fruit.

The joyous ride released hours of pent-up frustration for dozens of motorcyclists and drivers who waited to be among the first to cross.

Vespa scooter rider Tom Weber was first in line.

“Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, maybe for me personally,” he said.

The Madrid brothers, Adam and Ruben, grew up in West Dallas and are pleased the area is getting attention.

“This is great, this is beautiful,” said Adam. “This is beautiful architecture, bridge, wonderful.” Brother Ruben drolly added, “Basically I just like to ride my bike. And my brother wanted to be one of the first ones on the bridge and I decided to join him.”

The Madrids and other restless riders revved their engines, as hours seemed to drag by.

It seem Duane Milligan, with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), was double-checking every detail.

“This is a completely unique project, once-in-a-career type thing. So it’s really been exciting,” he said.

Even traffic cops were excited. Dallas police Sr. Cpl. Emory Nash would lead everyone through the barricades. “It’s exciting. New bridge, you know?” he asked, adding, “Open up development for West Dallas. Everybody excited about it.”

As the hour for the opening drew near, cars queued up a quarter mile or more to join in the rush to downtown. When the golden moment came, Ron Markham drove the first vehicle across and took Gillett along for the ride and to get some exclusive pictures.

mhh brige opening First Of The Dallas Calatrava Bridges Opens To Traffic

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

“But it was a thrill to be part of this, going over the bridge, being the first vehicle, part of Dallas history,” Markham said, adding, “To me it was a great privilege and I felt honored to be in the middle of all that.”

And after the lanes opened, relieved TxDOT employee Milligan said he was pleased with a job well done.

“A lot of hard work, [I’ve] been involved a little more than two years. And to finally see it being used by the public is really amazing.”

Most of the approaches to downtown and Interstate-35E will be completed Thursday night… most, but not all. The ramps to Riverfront Boulevard won’t be finished for a couple of weeks.

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