ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

It has been talked about since 1956.

Now the American Parkway Bridge project is getting underway.

Local leaders have finally broken ground on the project and construction crews are setting up shop on the site.

Heavy construction is scheduled to begin in a few months.

"This is not just a physical bridge it's a bridge to our future. At this time, this year more than any other I think the future is Allentown's to shape," said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Local politicians line up and break ground on the $46 million American Parkway Bridge project.

The bridge will span the Lehigh River and connect American Parkway at Ridge and Dauphin streets.

Officials say it will provide easy access from 22 to Allentown's downtown district.

"It's going to be much easier for people to get in and out of the city, Let's face it Allentown doesn't have a 378 like Bethlehem does," said Congressman Charlie Dent.

Officials say the bridge will also enhance the economic development of Allentown now being shaped by the arena and waterfront projects.

"It's critical to our plans to revitalize the waterfront on the western bank and to moving traffic downtown to our new arena development," said Pawlowski.

The ground breaking comes more than five decades after Allentown leaders proposed the bridge be built.

Over the years the project faltered but after the city of Allentown paid roughly $2 million in pre-construction cost and the federal government agreed to pay the full $46 million construction tab the project got the green light.

"This is an excellent, excellent renaissance of the city of Allentown," said Allentown City Councilman Julio Guridy.

PennDOT says the job should last two years and employ about 500 people.