After almost a year of construction, the extension of Gateway Boulevard is now finished.

The almost 1.8 mile stretch of stretch of Gateway Boulevard from Eagles Ridge Drive to Hart Road is planned to officially open to traffic by the end of the week - at which time arguably one of the City of Beloit's most major road-building projects since the Willowbrook extension will be complete,

"This is a very signifcant project for the City of Beloit," City Manager Larry Arft said. "This Further enhances our ability to recruit and retain business in the community, opens up several more hundred acres that now have modern infrastructure in place, improves the marketability of the original Gateway site, and provides improved access to the Kerry campus."

To celebrate the occasion, the City of Beloit will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Gateway Boulevard and Eagles Ridge Drive in the Gateway Business Park.

The vision for what would eventually become the Gateway Business began over 10 years ago when the City of Beloit and MLG Development created a development plan for the land strategically located at the confluence of I-39/90 and I-43.

The opening of Gateway Boulevard and it's connection to the interstate at Illinois Highway 75 was celebrated in July of 2003, and since then prominent tenants including the Staples Order Fulfillment Center and Kettle Foods have selected sites within the business park.

Southeastern Container, Inc. and the new Kerry campus later moved into the site as well partly because of the infrastructure made available during earlier phases of the Gateway development, according to Arft.

Now with the completion of the extension project, Arft said Beloit is in a better position to attract more businesses.

"We needed to prepare for what we hope will be an improving economy," he said. "There's been nothing going on for the last two years in the U.S., but part of the motivation for this project is to position the city to be a player when companies start to expand and to make sure Beloit can be a contender for those projects - and that's what this does."

Arft said the prospects for development in the Gateway Business Park have been "pretty thin" for the last two years, but the project's completion makes several hundred privately owned acres near the interstate north of the Gateway Business Park and wet of Townhall Road viable.

Another 229 additional acres are also still available in the original Gateway site, according to the city's economic development director Andrew Janke.

(Arft said Kerry owns an outlot on the east side of its campus, but he said Kerry has not made a decision yet regarding what to do with that property.)

These area of land are now ready for development, according to Arft, because Gateway Boulevard has become a four-lane modern industrial road that will better accommodate traffic (especially for trucks) and it has modern utilities in place

Plus, people now have direct access to the Gateway Business Park from I-43

"It's done now, and we will see a lot of people using it," Arft said. "It's convenient to get across the eastern part of the city, to get down quickly to Cranston (Road) and back to the heart of the city."

The Gateway Project cost $10 million. About half of it was paid for by state and federal funds, according to Arft, and the remainder was funded from a TIF district in the City of Beloit.