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The Wakota wait is over: ceremony Thursday formally christens bridge

Local leaders will celebrate the opening of the finally-finished new Wakota Bridge Thursday at a ceremony in South St. Paul.

The 4 p.m. event comes almost a decade in the making: design flaws, construction delays and a re-bidding of the eastbound span drew out completion of the Interstate 494 bridge over the Mississippi River to a lengthy eight years.

It caused headaches at Newport City Hall -- the city that bore the brunt of construction and where officials say delays helped stagnate the city's redevelopment efforts -- and raised voices at the State Capitol, where local legislators accused the Minnesota Department of Transportation of mishandling the project.

The $300 million bridge's eastbound span opened to traffic July 1. The bridge's two spans carry 90,000 vehicles per day between Newport and South St. Paul.

The public ceremony will be followed by a procession of classic cars across the bridge into Washington County and a dinner at Tinucci's Restaurant in Newport.