photo from media partner 10News

The 445,000-square-foot expansion of Terminal 2 at Lindbergh Field will boost the area's business community and improve the traveling experience for passengers, airport and civic officials said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.

"I can't tell you how important this whole project was to the business community in the San Diego region," said Jerry Sanders, who was mayor when the project was started and is now president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"You have to have a great airport, with modern facilities -- and having a well-run one -- if you're going to entice business to come from around the world to do business with all of our businesses," Sanders said.

He also said he was "extremely excited" to have small, local businesses included as concessionaires, including Stone Brewing and Phil's BBQ.

"It's a good way to expose the restaurant to a lot of customers and to a lot of people that travel to San Diego that have never been to our restaurant," said restaurant owner Phil Pace.

City Council President Todd Gloria said the airport will serve as "the premiere gateway to America's Finest City" for Comic-Con International attendees and business travelers from Tokyo and London, and will also send San Diegans to distant destination or bring cargo from overseas.

"The airport is indispensable to the flow of commerce and tourism for our city and for our region," said Gloria, who also hailed the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority for making the new building "as environmentally friendly as possible."

The project, which airport officials said was completed on time and came in $45 million under budget, has been opening in stages since April, adding gates, shops, restaurants and other services for passengers -- including a separate restroom for pets -- the first of its kind in a U.S. airport. Most of the new gates are being used by Delta Airlines.

The entire expansion is scheduled to be opened to the public on Tuesday.

Outside the terminal, the project, which took around three years to complete, includes a dual-level roadway to separate arriving and departing passengers.

The hope is that the roadway will cut traffic in half -- a projected statistic travelers are happy about.

"Aesthetically, I'm not so crazy about it, but I think for the traffic's sake … a lot of people will love it; I'll love it," said traveler Rose Previt.

Gloria said the reduction in traffic is a major plus and symbolic of the direction San Diego is moving in.

"As a native San Diegan we've always sat on Harbor Drive we've sat on the internal lanes. We are a city on the move. That happens in spite of any political dysfunction, and I think it's just a day to celebrate. I think San Diegans right now need a day or two to celebrate."

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had been invited to the ribbon-cutting, but did not attend because he's undergoing behavioral therapy in connection with his treatment of women, more than a dozen of whom have publicly accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.

"Well, ordinarily the mayor would be here. This is not possible given our current circumstances," Gloria said. "We're going to celebrate this day with or without our mayor and it's a day to celebrate."