The most significant improvement for more than 45 years on State Highway 2 between Napier and Wairoa is nearing completion.
The $26 million project bypasses a narrow and windy road through the Matahorua Gorge.
On Sunday, thousands of Hawke's Bay people took the opportunity to walk along the 137-metre steel bridge over the gorge, 50km north of Napier.
Wairoa Mayor Les Probert says the region's land transport committee lobbied unsuccessfully for years for a bridge across the gorge.
The bridge and a new section of highway will be opened next month.