MONTOURSVILLE -- More than a year after flood waters destroyed a crucial bridge in Lycoming County, the bridge is back.
There were just a few finishing touches to put on the new bridge over the Loyalsock Creek north of Montoursville before it could reopen to the public.
In September 2011, historic flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee destroyed the Slabtown Bridge that carries Route 973 over the creek.
Now, the bridge is open again thanks to speedy work by construction crews and a mild winter that provided the right conditions to rebuild the 345 foot-long span.
The first to drive across the long-awaited bridge was an ambulance from Eldred Township, which was the last vehicle across the old bridge before it was wiped out.
"It's been difficult, this has been the main access to get to that side of the creek," said Eldred Township Fire Chief Charles Whitford.
Not only will the new bridge let first responders get to emergency calls in a short amount of time, it will mean Mary Hepburn who lives on the western side of the bridge will have a shorter trip to see her grandchildren at school activities on the eastern side of the bridge.
"This is going to be grand to be able to see everything and not think, 'Should we go or wait until the next time?'" said Hepburn.
It has been about 13 months since traffic has been able to travel on the Slabtown Bridge between Eldred Township and Loyalsockville. Drivers will no longer have to take a 25-minute detour to get around but will be able to cross the brand new bridge like they did before the flood.
"We travel 25 minutes to get home, 25 minutes to get here. Versus if I close the store tonight at 7 o'clock I'll be home at 7:05," said Betty Menz.
The Creekside Country Market and Menz, its owner, have a darn good reason for celebrating. The new bridge will bring back customers who could not get there while the bridge was out, accounting for nearly half of the store's business.
"We've survived, we're here, we're ready to go," said Menz. "We are celebrating, we're happy to have our customers back from the other side."