Replacement of a steel bridge panel on Lover's Leap Bridge in New Milford is expected to begin in the next two weeks.

Public Works director Mike Zarba said his staff was meeting with Mohawk Northeast, the contractor that engineered a major upgrade of Lover's Leap Bridge several years ago.

"If it meets Mohawk's schedule, work should begin in two weeks," Zarba said April 7.

One of the bridge deck plates had been pried loose and taken by vandals from the bridge in early September.

The vandalism left a hole four feet long and one travel lane wide, according to Zarba.

The cost of the panel replacement was $1,578. The total replacement project will be in the $8,000 to $10,000 range, Zarba said.

The safety of Mohawk workers making the repair will be of primary concern, he added.

The bridge was restored in 2006 as the centerpiece to Lover's Leap State Park.

The bridge flooring was created with steel panels clipped to steel rods spanning the structure underneath, Zarba explained.

To correct gaps that were appearing between panels from the vibration of foot traffic, heavy aluminum brackets were later added. The brackets are joined to the outside of each panel, he said.

State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Dwayne Gardner noted in September it would have taken "several people with a wrecking bar or similar tool to move the panel" and complete the vandalism.

The bridge, a popular destination for both tourists and local residents, has been closed to foot traffic since September.

-- Susan Tuz