CRIMEAN BRIDGE, May 16. /TASS/. The motorway section of Russia’s longest bridge, the Crimean Bridge, opened for vehicles on Wednesday morning, a TASS correspondent reported.
The first cars to enter the new bridge at 5.30 Moscow time were driven by local residents, including journalists, community leaders and veterans.
The Crimean Bridge information center told TASS more than 1,100 vehicles have crossed it in the first hour.
"During the first hour of traffic across the Crimean bridge - between 5:30 and 6:30 Moscow time - more than 500 vehicles crossed the bridge toward Crimea and over 600 toward the Kransodar Territory," a spokesman said. "The traffic continues in normal regime."
Drivers were informed that they are not allowed to make stops throughout the entire journey and the speed of their vehicles should not exceed 90 kmph.
The motorway section was expected to be unveiled in December, but was completed six months ahead of schedule. Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the opening ceremony on Tuesday, driving the lead vehicle of the construction equipment convoy.
So far, only vehicles with mass not exceeding 3.5 tonnes will be allowed to cross the bridge. Passenger buses, taking tourists to Crimea during the high season, will be exempt from those restrictions, but truck drivers will have to use the ferry line until October.
The bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland by road and rail, is the longest in the country and one of the largest in Europe. Its span stretches across 19 kilometers.
The construction and installation of the bridge kicked off in February 2016. The project’s total value is almost 228 billion rubles. The Crimean Bridge originates on the Taman Peninsula, runs through a five-kilometer dike area and the Island of Tuzla, then crosses the Kerch Strait and reaches the Crimean coast.
On March 16, 2014, Crimean authorities held a referendum on reuniting with Russia against the background of a protracted political crisis and a coup in Ukraine. Over 80% of voters participated in the plebiscite, most of them supporting the idea (96.7% in Crimea and 95.6% in the city of Sevastopol).
On March 18, President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the Federal Assembly (parliament) approved the document on March 21. Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have so far refused to acknowledge Crimea as part of Russia.
The construction of the bridge’s railway section continues. It is expected to be completed in 2019.