FLORENCE — Some 10 vehicles made a quick trip Thursday, but it took a long journey to get there.
Some drivers and riders excitedly waved at bystanders from rolled-down windows.
The ceremony marked the opening of a portion of the east Florence roundabout.
"Hoo-wee, I'm glad to see this thing," Ken Patterson, owner of Ranger Batteries Company, said afterward. "We stuck it out through this for almost a year. It's a great day to see all these orange barrels coming down."
The part that opened allows traffic traveling south on Royal Avenue to go around on the roundabout and head east onto Huntsville Road, officials said.
Likewise, traffic traveling west on Huntsville Road can enter the roundabout and turn north onto Royal Avenue.
The section of Royal Avenue south of the roundabout will be closed for some utility work that contractors estimate will take an additional two to three weeks.
Officials are projecting Sept. 12 as the date for final completion of everything, including the permanent paving and striping, sidewalk work and utilities work. They said they may finish ahead of that date.
Thursday's opening came after nearly a year of frustration since construction began in September. Unusually large totals of rainfall and issues with underground pipes caused delay after delay for the project, which had been slated for 80 working days.
Patterson said his company's income had been reduced by nearly 50 percent during construction. Ranger is on Royal Avenue at the eastern end of Huntsville Road, which made access difficult during construction. He said he is impressed by the results today.
"We've got a beautiful roundabout," Patterson said. "I encourage people to come here and see it. Some people are scared of it, but it's easy to maneuver."
Seasons restaurant owner Mary Mitchell said it is refreshing to see vehicles travel along Huntsville Road in front of her business.
"I'm very relieved," Mitchell said. "I'm grateful to God. It's all in his time. It's exciting. I might come outside and just see the cars coming up and down the road."
District 3 City Councilman David Bradley, whose district includes the Sweetwater community, said new businesses are opening in that area, and the roundabout's opening helps free up access.
"This was a long time coming," Bradley said. "I'm really happy the citizens were able to come together and get behind these businesses during construction. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and hope it is a destination place for our citizens."
Council President Dick Jordan said business owners already have made, and are making, major investments to the Sweetwater district.
"Hopefully, this will help complement what they're doing to revitalize this area," Jordan said.
Mayor Steve Holt said Huntsville Road will be paved to the railroad tracks. The project also involves new sidewalks and light poles, many of which already are in place.
"To the business owners, thank you all for your patience and your prayers," Holt said. "It's coming up on a year for this project. I hope that this coming year is your best year ever."