After roughly two decades of promises and numerous delays, the long-awaited Evergreen Line connecting Coquitlam and Port Moody to Metro Vancouver's SkyTrain network has launched.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark joined local mayors for the grand opening of the 11-kilometre, $1.43-billion expansion Friday, held at the new Coquitlam Central Station. 

"When people start to see how they're going to get home faster, and they see that their travel time is cut by about half, we're going to see people flocking – to not just take this transit, but to become members of theincredible, beautiful communities that are growing here," Clark said. 

The premier acknowledged the "many people" who helped make the opening of the line, which was funded by the federal and provincial governments and TransLink, possible. 

It was a momentous occasion for many Tri-Cities residents, who have been promised the rapid-transit connection to the rest of the region since the NDP government of Glen Clark in the 1990s. 

"It's something we've been waiting for my adult life, and we finally get it," Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart told CTV News.

evergreen line map

Celebrations are being held at every Evergreen Station over the course of the day, but the biggest will be at Coquitlam Central, which will have live entertainment and activities for kids – including a rumoured appearance by Santa Claus. 

With the ribbon cut and inaugural ride complete, officials estimate the line will be drawing 50,000 passengers a day for the first year, and 70,000 a day by 2021 – a reduction of 40,000 car trips daily. 

Evergreen Line trains will be running every 3.5-minutes during rush hour, and every seven or eight minutes otherwise.

Construction on the expansion began in February 2013, and was hit with a number of delays over the years, including some that were caused by sinkholes and tunneling problems. 

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim