HARRISBURG - Forty years after planners identified the need for an "outer ring" bypass to ease future congestion in central Bucks and Montgomery Counties, the Route 202 parkway has cleared its last regulatory hurdle.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials yesterday announced the approval of the environmental evaluation report for the 8.6-mile-long Route 202 parkway, the final step before construction can begin next year.

The agency will now move forward with the purchase of 50 remaining small parcels of land for the right-of-way, complete final engineering plans, and put construction contracts out for bid, said PennDot spokesman Gene Blaum.

The $200 million project is expected to be completed in 2010, officials said. They said they were not certain whether sections of the road, which runs from Upper Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County, to Doylestown Township, Bucks County, would open earlier.

"This has been a long time coming with many variations over the past few decades," said Blaum.

The original plan for a four-lane, high-speed expressway was mired in controversy for 15 years. In 2005, after the formation of a task force and extended community discussions, a compromise was reached to build a scenic parkway - only the second parkway in the state.

"This is a milestone," said Leo Bagley, transportation planner for the Montgomery County Planning Commission. "We all realize it will be a benefit and will bring traffic relief."

The limited access parkway will be primarily two lanes divided by rumble strips with a 40 mile-per-hour speed limit. There will be a small stretch, less than two miles, where it will widen to four lanes.

Planners say the parkway will reduce traffic on the existing Route 202, Stump Road and Upper State Road and provide quicker access for commuters between Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

Berms will provide visual barriers and help reduce noise for neighboring residential areas. A multi-use trail will be built alongside the road for cyclists and walkers.