GATUN, Panama -- Panama has inaugurated the third bridge connecting the country's eastern and western halves over the Panama Canal.
The $380 million bridge built by the Panama Canal Authority two decades after the U.S. turned the canal over to Panama will now allow continuous access for traffic moving east and west.
For decades, residents along Panama's Caribbean coast had to rely on a ferry and single lanes passing over the canal that are open only when the locks are closed.
Panama President Laurentino Cortizo is a native of the area known as Costa Abajo de Colon and he recalled Friday the torturous waits to cross from one side to the other, sometimes during medical emergencies. Cortizo says the new span is a "huge advance" for the area's residents.