STUART, FLA. -- Gov. Bob Martinez (R) drove a 1929 Ford Model AA truck yesterday to open the final 33-mile stretch of Interstate 95, a superhighway that began snaking its way from Miami to Maine 32 years ago.

"Our north and south are linked," Martinez told 200 local and state officials at the opening ceremonies.

Workers late Friday put finishing touches on the highway west of here. Work on the $222 million project began in February 1985.

Rep. Tom Lewis (R-Fla.) called it a long, tough fight to finish the "missing link" of I-95.

"There were times of some doubt that the federal government would see this through," Lewis said.

In addition to a traffic relief for Florida's Turnpike and U.S. 1, Lewis said, I-95 will be another evacuation route in case of an emergency such as a major hurricane.

The formerly missing link runs from northeastern Palm Beach County into Martin County, loops west across the Florida Turnpike and heads back toward the coast to connect with what had been a dead-end stretch of the highway in St. Lucie County.

I-95 was designed as an unbroken freeway, but its 1,866 miles are interrupted in central New Jersey's Somerset County, where traffic shifts to the New Jersey Turnpike until north of Trenton. Plans for completing I-95 in New Jersey were scuttled in 1983.