BEAUFORT, CARTERET COUNTY -

A ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the Gallants Channel Bridge in Beaufort was held Wednesday morning. Town officials said it's a project that has been in the planning process for about 20 years.

Officials including Beaufort Mayor Richard Stanley, Morehead City Mayor Jerry Jones, and the Carteret County Board of Commissioners dug into the dirt during an official ground breaking ceremony at the Gallant's Channel Annex on W. Beaufort Road.

The bridge will connect Radio Island to north side of the Town Creek Marina.

Beaufort Mayor Richard Stanley said he's excited about the positive economic impact this bridge will bring to surrounding towns.

"It's fabulous for the area. Its been a joint effort of many governments and towns. Morehead City and Beaufort have worked very hard on it," Mayor Stanley said.

North Carolina Department of Transportation Officials said the $66.4 million project will replace the existing Grayden Paul Draw Bridge. With the new bridge, Hwy U.S. 70 will no longer go directly into downtown Beaufort, according to NCDOT. Mayor Stanley said this will hep with traffic near the court house.

The project is expected to take less than three years to complete.