The Ballynure bypass section of the A8 Larne to Belfast dual carriageway scheme has been officially opened by Transport Minister Danny Kennedy.
The £130m project, which is expected to be completed this spring, involves upgrading 14.4km of the existing A8, between Coleman’s Corner roundabout and Ballyrickard Road, to dual carriageway standard.
On Monday, Mr Kennedy cut the ribbon on 3.4km Ballynure bypass section of the scheme, which he said “represents a very significant stage in the overall works”.
Speaking at the event, the Minister told the Times he was “very impressed” by the project and described it as “a major engineering feat”.
The Ulster Unionist representative added: “This new bypass will remove traffic which travels through the village of Ballynure, and I think everyone will acknowledge the significant benefits this will bring to both the residents in Ballynure and the travelling public.
“This will be a huge benefit to the people who live in this area and their travel movements will be greatly enhanced as a result of it.”
Also in attendance at the event were party colleagues, East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs and South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan.
Mr Beggs said he hoped the new bypass would improve safety for motorists travelling between Larne and Belfast on a regular basis.
He added: “It is great that the diversions which have been affecting people in the past will finally be removed and it will be a straight run through.
“I hope the opening of this new bypass will improve the prospects for Larne as a location for jobs and also the prospects for the local ferries.”
Meanwhile, Mr Kinahan told the Times it was “great to see the bypass opening on time” and said it would improve connections between Larne and Belfast International Airport.
He added: “I fought hard for local farmers at various times throughout this scheme and I will continue to help them get their payments through the vesting process.”
Construction of the A8 scheme by the joint venture of Lagan, Ferrovial, Costain started in August 2012.
The road is part of the Eastern Seaboard Key Transport Corridor, an important link between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland through the Port of Larne, and forms part of the Trans European Network.
Other elements of the project include a new roundabout at Shane’s Hill Road, as well as a number of grade-separated junctions, bridges and left-in left-out junctions along the scheme, which will provide access to the new road and local access.