A £35 million bypass round Magherafelt has ben formally opened.
The new road, which was completed weeks ahead of schedule, will significantly ease congestion in the Co Londonderry town by removing a predicted 50,000 vehicles a week.
The route is 6km (3.8 miles) long and incorporates three new roundabouts.
The bypass was built mostly in countryside to the east of Magaherafelt, and at its northern end it links directly on to the A6 Belfast to Londonderry route, at the Castledawson roundabout.
The A6 is itself being upgraded in stages, soon to include the replacement of a busy single carriageway stretch that runs from the Castledawson roundabout to the western end of the M22, near Randalstown.
The Magherafelt bypass was today unveiled by Chris Hazzard, the Sinn Fein MLA who holds the Stormont infrastructure ministry, alongside the Sinn Fein MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy and the Ulster Unionist chair of Mid Ulster council, Councillor Trevor Wilson.
Mr Hazzard said: “In addition to reducing congestion, the bypass will help improve road safety and reduce journey times.”
Work on the road scheme began in June 2015, and included the excavation of over 500,000 cubic metres of earthworks and over 25,000 cubic metres of rock.
The bypass, which becomes part of the A31 route, at its southern end joins the A31 Moneymore Road at Coolshinny Road junction.
Mr Hazzard said: “The A31 is a strategically important and busy route. The investment and delivery of the £35million bypass will improve local connections to the Key Transport Corridor network and significantly ease congestion in Magherafelt by up to around 50,000 vehicles every week.”
The infrastructure department said in a press release that the road will “improve links for the movement of people, goods and services in the Mid Ulster area to and from the M2, Belfast and north-east”.
Mr Hazzard said: “Delivering extensive improvements to the roads infrastructure such as this involves the cooperation and understanding of the local community.
“I acknowledge the impact that this scheme has had on residents, landowners and businesses. However, I am confident that everyone involved will see and immediately begin to benefit from this significant investment.”
He also congratulated the construction companies involved, BAM and McCann, on the “joint delivery of the scheme ahead of schedule”.
The new road incorporates three new roundabouts at Moneymore Road, Ballyronan Road and Aughrim Road which provide access to the new road.
It also has under bridges at Killyfaddy Road, Loves Road and Killyneese Road.
The scheme is said by the department to have provided employment for seven people who were previously registered as unemployed. It also provided employment for seven student placements, 16 apprentices and 90 training placement weeks.