Champlain bridge can’t be saved

Crown Point, N.Y., is visible across the closed Lake Champlain Bridge, but a 100-mile detour is needed to reach it by car. Crown Point, N.Y., is visible across the closed Lake Champlain Bridge, but a 100-mile detour is needed to reach it by car. (Toby Talbot/ Associated Press)
By John Curran
Associated Press / November 10, 2009

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WEST ADDISON, Vt. - A bridge connecting New York and Vermont that was closed suddenly last month amid safety concerns is too badly deteriorated to repair and must be replaced, officials announced yesterday.

Underwater inspection of the concrete piers and underlying foundations of the Lake Champlain Bridge found cracks and deterioration, making it vulnerable to sudden collapse, said Stanley Gee, acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation.

Neither he nor Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary David Dill would say when construction might begin on the replacement.

They said they hope demolition of the bridge can begin by year’s end.

The states jointly own and maintain the 2,184-foot bridge, which links Crown Point, N.Y., with West Addison, Vt., over a narrow stretch of southern Lake Champlain, about 95 miles north of Albany, N.Y.

After undergoing work much of the summer, the bridge was closed Oct. 16 because of safety concerns about the concrete supports.

Its closure has disrupted life for thousands of people on both sides: commuters who live in one state and work in the other, farmers who have operations in both states, and businesses located close to each terminus that rely on patronage by commuters.

About 3,500 vehicles a day used the bridge and its closure forced a 100-mile detour.

The states are gearing up to establish a new ferry service in the shadow of the rusting structure, but it’s unclear how quickly it can begin.

Yesterday, archaeologists from the University of Vermont, working under contract, were busy digging in a field next to the bridge in hopes of establishing what artifacts, if any, lie in the ground where the new ferry approach and terminals would be built.

Ray Giroux, president of Champlain Bridge Marina, a marina and boat sales business on the Vermont side, called the news devastating.

“This is a crying shame, to have ill maintenance from our government and not see it way ahead of time,’’ he said.

The permanent closing of the bridge is bad news for commuters.

“I hope they do something soon,’’ said Melissa Bienvenue, 50, of Addison, who works at Goodrich Aerospace in Vergennes, where many New Yorkers commute to work. “They have to take the long way around.’’

Jessica Rochon, a clerk at a general store in Addison, said business was off since the closing.

“Down that way is a ghost town,’’ she said, gesturing toward the bridge.

If repairs were attempted, the severity of deterioration to the piers would endanger contractors and engineers, Gee said.