KOMARNA, Croatia, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The final piece of steel box girder for the Peljesac Bridge in southern Croatia was lifted and welded with the main structure on late Wednesday night.
The 2.4-km cable-stayed bridge over the Mali Ston Bay of the Adriatic Sea connects Croatian mainland and the Peljesac Peninsula of its southernmost Dubrovnik-Neretva County, bypassing a short strip of Bosnian and Herzegovina's territory.
The bridge, giving Croatia its long-awaited territorial continuity and traffic convenience, will be open to traffic next year when all access roads and relevant constructions are finished.
A Chinese consortium led by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) won the bid to build the first phase of the Peljesac Bridge and its access roads in 2018, with a promise to finish the job in 36 months.
"The CRBC performed a marvelous job. We are now witnessing a physical linkage of the bridge three months ahead of the planned deadline despite the COVID-19 and the difficulties in the transport from China to Croatia. I think it is a fantastic achievement," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told Xinhua at the construction site on the Peljesac Peninsula ahead of a ceremony marking the connection shortly after midnight on Thursday.
"Politically it is great, economically it is fantastic ... but also it brings together three actors: Croatia, European Union and China," Plenkovic commented on the EU-funded project.
"Tonight we have achieved a goal that solves a 300-year-old problem. It is a fascinating strategic achievement of the Croatian people and state and a picture of modern sovereignty that defines how to achieve strategic national interests and what has been the goal of the Croatian people and state for years," the prime minister said in his speech during the ceremony.
The ceremony was also attended by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic and several ministers, as well as many former and incumbent officials. Hundreds of guests, members from the media, and representatives from the contractor and its subcontractors were also at the scene, a rare occurrence in this part of Croatia.
Some local residents came near the bridge in their small boats to witness and celebrate the historic moment. Fireworks sponsored by the Chinese contractor highlighted the end of the ceremony at around 1:00 a.m. (GMT 0000) on Thursday, followed by another firework show by exhilarated people of the village of Komarna on the mainland-side of the bay.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service