PORT BRUCE, ONT. -- Construction got underway Tuesday for the new Imperial Road Bridge in Port Bruce.

A pair of backhoes, one big and one small, were doing preparation work along on the south side of Imperial Road where the bridge collapsed on February 23, 2018.

The collapse gained notoriety because a dump truck with the driver still in the cab was on the bridge at the time of the collapse. The deck of the bridge ended up on a steep incline and the back wheels of the truck were in Catfish Creek.

The driver had to be rescued by emergency services and it took a month of planning and a massive crane to lift the dump truck from the deck.

It's been a while since the heavy equipment has been on this section of Imperial Road.

Paul Bourgeois lives about half a block from where the bridge collapsed. He was one of the first on scene. "You could only see the top of the bridge. It looked like a lift bridge. And then I walked up and you could see the truck at the bottom."

On Tuesday he watched preparations for construction of the new bridge. "It's nice to see that it's going to get fixed."

Port Bruce sits in Malahide Township and the township’s mayor, Dave Mennill, is also the current Elgin County warden.

"First step, they've got to get rid of the old abutment on the other (south) side and then they'll put new abutments in to hold the bridge," he says.

The new bridge will cost just over $5 million. The contract was awarded to London firm Hayman Construction just last week, with a December completion date.

But there's a deadline within the deadline. And Mennill says that meant Hayman had little time to waste.

"All the in-water construction has to be done by March 15 because, between March 15 and June 15, that's the spawning season so they can't really disturb the water during that time period. So that's why they're on it right away."

The bridge collapse effectively cut Port Bruce in half creating concerns about access for emergency services. And it had other impacts, like adding a half an hour of additional driving time for Carol Dunn’s Canada Post mail-run.

"I had to go around the long way to come up Dexter Line, go through Sparta and come down Dexter Line to deliver the mail down here," she says.

Businesses struggled through the summer of 2018 until a temporary bridge was put in place over the creek on Bank Street at the end of August.

Mennill says that bridge made life much better for the tourist season of 2019.

But even with the temporary bridge there have been ongoing traffic issues. Bourgeois says has seen an increased number of vehicles passing by his front door, many trying to make up for lost time.

"They go up the one way, they speed - terrible, 90 to100 kilometres. It's not a highway."

County staff members say there will be improvements with the new bridge, including room for pedestrians and cyclists.