£90m Church Village bypass opens ahead of schedule
A £90m bypass first mooted in the 1980s has been opened, two months ahead of schedule.
Rhondda Cynon Taf council said the Church Village bypass would help boost the economy and ease congestion between Talbot Green and Pontypridd.
Three special bridges for dormice have also been built across the road at a cost of £190,000.
First Minister Carwyn Jones officially opened the 4.6-mile (7km) stretch to traffic.
The bypass was first proposed in the late 1980s, but ran into problems over the estimated cost before being granted planning permission in 2006.
Minor sections were opened to traffic in October 2009, and a major segment from Crown Hill to Creigiau, including a roundabout at Nant Dowlais, opened in April.
Council officials said the bypass would ease congestion by 70% along the A473, which links Talbot Green and Pontypridd, and was one of the largest single highway projects ever undertaken by a local authority in the UK.
First Minister Mr Jones said: "I'm delighted to see this road fully open to users and it is testament to the hard work of the local authority and the contractors that it has been completed on time and on budget.
"As well as the economic, environmental and social benefits the new road will bring by allowing traffic to travel more efficiently along this crucial route, this project has provided a valuable boost to the local economy in difficult times."
Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf council Russell Roberts said it was an "extremely proud day" for the borough.
He added: "The bypass has been the largest road scheme of any undertaken by a local authority the length and breadth of Britain during the time of its construction, which demonstrates the scale of the project and the resulting benefit for the area. "
Mr Roberts said it brought "much-needed respite" to commuters and residents facing congestion and a "greatly improved link" from the A4119/M4 at Llantrisant and Talbot Green to the A470 and Pontypridd.
The first vehicles to travel the length of the new bypass were a selection of classic Gilbern cars, built in Church Village from 1959 onwards, carrying the first minister and other guests.
Construction work on the bypass started in January last year and it employed about 4,000 people. The project is estimated to have brought benefits of £27m to the local economy.
Last month, three bridges over the bypass were unveiled for endangered dormice.