Getting into his 2005 Jaguar, Old Forge citizen Michael Graham was asked to take a 10-second drive, but not just any drive, a drive across the new Old Forge bridge.
Graham, senior vice-commander of the VFW Post 4954 of Old Forge, was the first person to drive across it.
Cameras flashed, cars horns honked and people cheered. Graham had been chosen by county representatives to take the drive, and with it being Memorial Day weekend and Graham a veteran, it added extra meaning.
“I was just very honored and privileged that they would even consider a veteran like that to come down and be the first one over the bridge,” said Graham. “It was really an honor.”
Graham said it was a very smooth ride, adding the car especially liked it. “The Jaguar told me it was thrilled with that ride over that nice, smooth bridge and nice, smooth ride. It was tired of all those bumps and everything else,” he said.
On Monday, January 20, 2013, dump trucks, bulldozers and construction workers began work on the 50-year-old bridge that connects Old Forge and Duryea. The project took 16 months and an estimated $3.7 million.
The Old Forge Main Street Bridge was reopened Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored Duryea and Old Forge. In attendance were townspeople as well as state Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich and county commissioners.
The original Old Forge bridge was constructed in 1940, but according to Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley, the bridge was becoming dangerous and needed to be replaced.
“This bridge needed to be replaced many years ago,” said O’Malley. “Now it’s here, it’s done and it’s about the safety of the community of the 214,000 citizens of Lackawanna County. This is what this bridge is about, making sure we’re safe.”
O’Malley said he hopes this bridge can last over 100 years, double the amount of time the original bridge lasted.
O’Malley said that the people of Old Forge and Duryea were understanding about inconveniences caused by the work because they wanted a new bridge.
“I think people wanted to have the bridge replaced in the worst way,” said O’Malley. “They understood how bad the bridge was, and that it was an accident waiting to happen. We needed to close it down, the sooner the better, and get this beautiful new bridge put in. Like I said, it’s safer for the people of Lackawanna County.”
Kavulich, who helped cut the ribbon, said he believes opening the new bridge is just adding to the great year Old Forge is already having.
“It’s been a great year for Old Forge,” said Kavulich. “The football team goes to the state final, the girls basketball team goes to the state final and now after a year and half the bridge is open and this, on Memorial Day weekend. What better event could take place could take on Memorial Day weekend than opening the bridge that connects Lackawanna County and Luzerne County? It’s a wonderful day here in Old Forge.”
Helen Artabane, 87, of Duryea, the oldest person in attendance, was invited to hold the scissors for the ribbon cutting. She said she grew up next to the bridge and has lived there her whole life.
“It’s beautiful now,” said Artabane. “It’s nice and big.”
Although Artabane may not see herself traveling across the bridge much, she thinks it will be a big asset to the community. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said.