NORTHPORT, Ala. (WIAT) — Northport city leaders held a groundbreaking Thursday morning to replace the aging Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard bridge. City engineer Tera Tubbs said this is long overdue.

“This is the first phase of this project, and I know this project has many phases over the years,” Tubbs said. “But the first phase is replacing this bridge, and you look behind me and you can see it needs it and it’s posted, and we do inspections on it every six months. So it’s time this bridge gets replaced, and we are very excited about this.”

After two decades of anticipation, the City of Northport announced the official kickoff to Phase I of the MLK Jr. Boulevard bridge replacement project that was commemorated with a groundbreaking ceremony. The bridge was built in 1979, and more than 8,000 vehicles cross over the structure every day.

Northport District 2 City Councilman Woodrow Washington said this kind of progress will mean so much to residents.

“To me, any new progress is great progress, especially a new bridge,” Washington said. “But just giving people an opportunity to drive on a smooth surface is always good. I believe anytime you have to make a different turn then your used to is an inconvenience. But with progress comes patience, and patience is progress, and in time it will be better.”

The bridge project will cost $6.5 million, and the construction work should be completed in one year. The second phase work should be done in 2024 and will be a road reconstruction job, featuring new sidewalks and lighting.