New Lake Champlain Bridge Opens Years Ahead of Schedule

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The New Lake Champlain Bridge (Photo (cc) by Flickr user Nicholas Erwin)

Crown Point, New York is once again connected to Addison, Vermont. It's been two years since a trip between the two towns on either side of Lake Champlain leapt from a few-minutes drive to a few hours. In October 2009, inspectors from the New York State department of transportation declared the old Lake Champlain Bridge unsafe and shut the span immediately. The 3,000 or so drivers who crossed the bridge daily were forced to make a long loop around the lake. Eventually a free ferry service was offered. The closure shocked local residents and cast doubt on the states' ability to manage aging infrastructure. The completion of the new bridge, the Governors of both states hope, removes those doubts.

"When the bridge was closed and demolished in 2009, it was estimated to take eight years to rebuild," N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement today. "I am pleased to announce that thanks to the hard work and dedication of our federal, state, and local partners, the bridge is opening far earlier than planned."

(Collin Campbell)

The old bridge, built in 1929, was scheduled for replacement in 2012 anyway, but state agencies were caught off guard by the 2009 diagnosis and the suddenness of the closure made replacement a higher priority. Residents and local business activity was curtailed by the lack of a convenient detour. Local dairy farmer Tim Kayhart saw his frequent business trips to a partner farm across the lake go from four miles each way, to 150. Ferry service helped, but was no substitute for certain types of trips.

The old bridge was demolished in December 2009 (see our past reporting on that here). The $76 million construction of the new span started in June of 2010.

"It's a critical link for west-central Vermont and New York State, and vital to Vermont's economic strength, as well as for the people who rely upon that bridge for work and recreation. The structure that is opening today recreates the iconic previous Champlain Bridge, and I'm enormously proud of the design and the execution of this state-of-the-art engineering accomplishment," said Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin who attended a ribbon cutting today along with NY Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.

Local sign at the Chimney Point State Historic Site, shared on the Bridge's Facebook page.

According to government officials, the new network tied arch bridge is a steel structure with a projected 75-year service life. Certain components of the bridge are designed to be replaceable, which reduces maintenance costs.

One reason the construction was faster than predicted was the location of construction, on land. The central arch was built in nearby Port Henry, N.Y. Then the eight-story, 402-foot long, 1.8 million pound structure was floated down the lake and lifted into place. Watch a time lapse video of the August arch lifting below.

NY Gov. Cuomo's office says the lanes and shoulders are wider than average to accomodate farm vehicles and bicycles. There are pedestrian sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.