Turkey unveils 3rd Istanbul bridge linking Europe with Asia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, far left, Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, right, and other officials pray during the inauguration of the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.(Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)
The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge,the third bridge over the Bosporus, hours before an inauguration ceremony in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the inauguration of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.(Tolga Adanali/Depo Photos via AP)
Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar salutes during the inauguration of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.(Tolga Adanali/Depo Photos via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, addresses the crowd during the inauguration ceremony of the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)
Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar prays during the inauguration of the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.(Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)
The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge,the third bridge over the Bosporus, hours before an inauguration ceremony in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)
Red and white balloons, symbolising the colours of Turkish national flag, float in the air during the inauguration of the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Tolga Adanali, Depo Photos via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the inauguration of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge overthe Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.(Tolga Adanali/Depo Photos via AP)
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks during the inauguration of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Tolga Adanali/Depo Photos via AP)
The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge over the Bosporus, hours before an inauguration ceremony in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo)

ISTANBUL — Turkey opened one of the world's largest bridges Friday designed to allow traffic to cross the Bosphorus Strait between Europe and Asia and ease congestion in Istanbul.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan oversaw a ceremony inaugurating the $3 billion Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, which is touted by its Turko-Italian developers as the world's broadest suspension bridge at 58.4 meters (192 feet) wide.

The toll bridge, spanning 1,408 meters (4,620 feet) over the Bosphorus, features 10 lanes, including two rail lines. At 322 meters (1,056 feet), officials say the bridge's 322-meter (1,056-foot) towers are also the tallest in the world.

It becomes Istanbul's third bridge spanning the strategic strait.

"This bridge upon which we look with pride will hopefully be a pioneer for many things. ... We will be proud of it, you will see. International movies will be filmed here, you will see," Erdogan told the audience, among them the king of Bahrain, dignitaries from several other countries and hundreds of citizens.

Some vehicles were permitted to cross the bridge for the first time Friday, while the general public can start using it Saturday, Erdogan said.

Located near the Black Sea coast north of Istanbul, the bridge is expected to ease traffic gridlock in the city of 15 million, in part because heavy trucks will be required to use it rather than the two older bridges nearer the city.

Not everybody likes the bridge's name. It honors a 16th century Ottoman sultan, Selim, whom the Alevi religious minority blames for instigating a massacre of their people five centuries ago.

Environmental groups have criticized the destruction of forests to build approach roads to the bridge.

The bridge forms part of the 257-kilometer (160-mile) North Marmara Highway, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

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