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Byline: Shonda Novak and Suzanne Pritikin TRIBUNE REPORTERS
Mayor hails 'one city'; West Siders cheer easier drive;some East Siders say it's time to accept 'greater good'
At first, rush-hour traffic was light this morning on the new Montano Bridge over the Rio Grande, less than 12 hours after it officially opened.
Little by little, more and more motorists began turning onto the new 2,000-foot bridge and by 7 a.m. there was a steady stream of eastbound traffic.
Westbound traffic was very light.
Each time the east-west traffic light at Montano Road and Coors Road turned red, traffic backed up on Montano into the Taylor Ranch neighborhood.
The speed limit on the bridge is 40 mph and traffic in both directions whisked along.
Montano Bridge is the ninth Rio Grande crossing in the metro area, from Bernalillo north of the city to Isleta Pueblo south of the city.
Its construction comes some 30 years after it first was proposed.
With the bridge's official opening Monday evening, the cyclists, skaters, nature lovers and joggers who have had it all to themselves for months while related roadwork was being completed now have to share it with about 15,000 cars a day.
Other than a protest by activists who called the bridge "a major political reward for (Mayor) Martin Chavez and a benefit to residents of the West Side and developers," the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was marked by a festive atmosphere.
It belied almost three decades of dissension and legal battles that preceded the opening of the bridge, which links Coors Road on the West Side to Fourth Street in the North Valley.
About 750 people attended the grand opening. There were free hot dogs, speeches by local politicians, dancing and singing, and a parade headed by Chavez driving a powder-blue 1968 Pontiac GTO.
Chavez and other politicians who have pushed for the bridge for years billed the opening as a time for residents east and west of the Rio …