$46 million Veteran’s Memorial Bridge opens in Daytona Beach, 'we thank them for all they've done'

The old Orange Avenue Bridge -- now formally called the Tom Staed Avenue Bridge -- opened to the public on Thursday morning in Daytona Beach.

The $46 million project was supposed to be complete in 2018 but was delayed due to weather and other factors. Now that it is opened, it should allow for increased traffic flow.

Crews had a vehicle procession on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. over the new bridge and then at 9 a.m., it officially opened to the public.

It’s not everyday that a bridge reopening triggers so much emotion, but people in Daytona Beach have been waiting for years to see cars drive over.

“It was very emotional, very emotional,” said District 2 Councilwoman Billie Wheeler. “And I hear them and we finally got this open and hopefully that’s gonna help their businesses."

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The bridge honors local businessman and veteran Tom Staed. His widow was the first to drive over at a ceremony Thursday morning.

It also serves a tribute to fallen veterans. It's a two-lane bridge with handicap accessibility, 8-foot sidewalks, fishing piers on both sides of the Halifax River, and plaques at 28 spots along the bridge commemorating conflicts in America's military history. 

People at the ceremony are happy to see a memorial for vets. Marjorie Johnson told FOX 35 that "my son also served in the military for 27 years, so I’m excited."

"We thank them for all they’ve done, and we thank the Tom Staed family. This is a wonderful thing for Volusia County,” Councilwoman Wheeler added.

Engineers describe the design as a concrete arch bridge based on the style of bridges built in the 1920s. It will be more than 65 feet tall in some points, eliminating the need for a draw bridge at the crossing of the river.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.