The new $3.6 million Hina Hina Bridge had a soft opening to light traffic and emergency vehicles only on Monday.
It is expected to be opened officially next month.
Clutha District Council service delivery group manager Jules Witt said there would be speed and weight restrictions in place at the bridge because there was still some work to be done to the approaches before it could be opened to heavy traffic.
‘‘We understand the importance of this traffic link to the community and we want to make it available for use as soon as possible,’’ Mr Witt said.
The council hoped to have the bridge finished and open to all traffic later in the year when drier conditions would allow the approaches to be completed to an adequate standard for heavy traffic.
‘‘We ask everyone to please respect the weight and speed restrictions,’’ he said.
Emergency vehicles will be able to use the new bridge from this weekend.
Jointly funded by the council and the NZ Transport Agency, the modern single›lane bridge allows traffic to cross the Catlins Lake, near Owaka, and replaces the ageing bridge which was built in 1957.
When complete, the new concrete structure will be able to carry heavier trucks needed by farm and forestry businesses in the area.
It also includes safe access for pedestrians and cyclists.
Funding for a new bridge was approved in the first half of last year, and work started in September.
‘‘This has been a challenging project involving demolishing the existing bridge and working in a demanding tidal waterway,’’ Mr Witt said.