A mini-parade erupted in celebration of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Slabtown Bridge. Yet as one bridge officially became up and running, the DuBoistown Bridge fell as work continued.
The state Department of Transportation opened the Slabtown Bridge Tuesday afternoon, less than 14 months after massive flooding from Tropical Storm Lee destroyed it on Sept. 8, 2011.
First to cross the bridge after its opening was the Eldred Township Volunteer Fire Co. Ambulance. It was the last vehicle to cross before the bridge shut down for safety concerns. Christine Katzmaier, EMS captain, drove the ambulance that night and wanted to bring the crew back to welcome the return of the bridge.
When she found out a week ago the bridge would be opening, she called Rick Mason, PennDOT public information officer, and asked if they could be the first to drive on the new bridge.
"He said that would be great," Katzmaier said. "It meant a lot to us."
Allowing access over the bridge was great from her standpoint as EMS captain because it will allow the volunteer fire company to easily reach its coverage area on the other side of the bridge, but also from a personal standpoint because while she lives on one side of the bridge, she has family on the other side of it.
View of the old DuBoistown (Arch Street) Bridge Tuesday as explosives were set off on three spans, causing the structure to drop into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
The Eldred Volunteer Fire Co. ambulance, above, is the first to cross the Slabtown Bridge at its grand opening Tuesday afternoon.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Directly behind the ambulance followed the Eldred Township Volunteer Fire Co. People in both vehicles inside waved, sounded their sirens and flashed their lights, while residents, bridge officials and government officials standing on the bridge's shoulders applauded and took pictures.
While Eldred Township Volunteer Fire Co. officials drove west to east on the bridge, the first vehicle coming east to west was an Upper Fairfield Township plow truck.
Project manager Dave Wise said having vehicles come from both sides is about "joining two townships together."
Residents also were involved with the opening ceremony. Following a picture of the people involved with the bridge construction, Mason invited anyone who would be driving on the bridge for the next 77 years to participate in the picture.
Edwin Keller Jr., of Wallis Run, attended the event to watch the opening of the bridge.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," Keller said.
He has used the bridge daily, but had to use the 12-mile detour of Route 87, Loyalsock Avenue and Broad Street in Montoursville and Warrensville Road. The detour now has been lifted.
After the official vehicles crossed the bridge, a few residents also drove across it before it had to be closed for last-minute tweaks, such as replacing signs.
Prime contractor Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. constructed the $3 million, three-span concrete bridge in less than eight months.
The new bridge sits on the same alignment as its predecessor. It is 345 feet long, with two 11 foot-wide travel lanes, five foot-wide shoulders and two piers in the creek.
Meanwhile, three of the seven spans on the DuBoistown Bridge, also known as the Arch Street Bridge, were demolished shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The demolition will happen in sections because the entire river cannot be blocked off at once, Wise said. A causeway, or a road in the river, has to be built to allow workers to excavate the fallen parts, cut them and recycle them.
After that is finished, the piers will be demolished. The causeway will be built on the DuBoistown side of the bridge and the four remaining spans will be demolished.
Wise expected the work to finish in about six to eight weeks.
Work on the DuBoistown Bridge began about three years ago after money was made available for bridges that were not already scheduled to be repaired or replaced. The money became available after the Interstate 35 bridge, in Minneapolis, Minn., collapsed in August 2007.
The new span replacing the DuBoistown Bridge, which has been named the Lance Cpl. Abram L. Howard Bridge, is expected to open Nov. 16.