LONDON, ONT. -- The King George Lift Bridge Rehabilitation Project in Port Stanley, Ont. remains on track thanks to contractors pushing through the recent cold weather.

"We remain on schedule with an anticipated substantial completion date of May 31, 2021 so we are excited about that," says Brian Lima, director engineering services for Elgin County and project manager.

Driving through the Lake Erie village in the past few weeks, you would have noticed the west side of the bridge is now down. After being raised for large watercraft, the bridge was lowered on Feb. 2 to begin rehabilitation.

Despite it being lowered, vehicles and pedestrians will still not be able to cross.

"The significant works underway now include mechanical and electrical and control system replacements," says Lima.

"Prior to their removal there was some baseline benchmark testing that needed to be done on some of the machinery as some it is going to be refurbished given its age."

On Feb. 8, contractors were seen performing that baseline testing by raising and lowering the bridge.

Hearing the project remains on schedule to be completed before summer is good news for local businesses on both sides of the bridge. The work has split the village in two for nearly a year.

"We're totally excited," says Jessica Korbeil of James Street Home Decor on the east side of the bridge.

"It will be 14 months by the time it is done and it’s been a long time coming. It feels like it’s been down forever. It's too far to walk around so for most people it's forced them to choose between the main beach or shopping and not a lot of people going back and forth between the two."

King George Lift Bridge Rehabilitation Project
King George Lift Bridge Rehabilitation Project in Port Stanley, Ont. on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Brent Lale/CTV News)

At Port Stanley Terminal Rail (PSTR) on the west side of the bridge, 2020 was rough but they managed to survive.

"We thought the bridge was going to be the issue for the past year, but actually it was COVID-19," says Dan Vernackt, president of PSTR.

"It's very encouraging and we are hoping to be running trains the first weekend in May."

Knowing that businesses have struggled, Lima and his team have worked hard to promote shopping local.

"We were working with the BIA (Business Improvement Association) in Port Stanley, then unfortunately COVID hit and it has had an impact," says Lima.

"The project team is doing our best to promote various businesses that are still open as part of our progress blog updates and we will continue to do so as we move closer to project completion."

And that completion is inching closer. The most significant work is underway although much of it won't be visible to the public as it is inside the bridge.

"The exterior has been repainted and there is some decorative historical lighting that will be reintroduced on the structure," says Lima.

"In terms of other exterior facade improvements, we are awaiting delivery of replacement windows for the control towers. The contractors have assured us to date that they remain on schedule and will be completed by end of May so we are excited about that."