Press-Republican

June 22, 2009

Bi-state Champlain Bridge project begins

States will replace or repair neglected Crown Point span

By LOHR McKINSTRY

CROWN POINT — New York state and Vermont announced Monday that they have finalized a bi-state agreement to replace or repair the Champlain Bridge between Crown Point and Chimney Point, Vt.

Years of delayed maintenance on the 2,184-foot-long bridge have left it in deteriorating structural shape, and an environmental-impact statement must be completed before any work commences.

The HTNB Corp. of New York City was selected as the design consultant for the project.

The Champlain Bridge opened in 1929 as a toll bridge connecting New York and Vermont across Lake Champlain.

Many local leaders want the historic multi-truss bridge rehabilitated before its condition worsens.

The most recent repairs to the bridge were completed in late 2008, and included removing loose concrete, doweling reinforcement into existing concrete and pouring new concrete pier caps. A yellow flag warning that had been placed on the bridge was then taken off.

According to the State Department of Transportation, HTNB will first do an evaluation of the bridge to determine the feasibility of rehabilitation and the cost.

DOT spokesman Peter Van Keuren said all options will be identified and evaluated, and public input solicited before any decisions are made.

Van Keuren said the study will also address the potential impact of rehabilitation or replacement on motorists. Statistics show about 3,400 vehicles a day crossing the bridge in both directions.

"The project is in a preliminary planning stage," he said. "Construction is tentatively planned to begin in 2013."

He said a public advisory committee was set up to review the project, comprised of community members from the towns around the bridge on both sides of Lake Champlain. Business, agricultural and environmental groups are also represented on the committee, Van Keuren said.

Public informational meetings will be scheduled during the design phase to gather community input, he said.

"The bridge's condition will continue to be monitored during the development of this project, to ensure the safety of the traveling public."

The project to address the bridge's deteriorating condition started in 2006, as a joint operation of the DOT and the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

The bridge is owned by both New York and Vermont, although New York has been entrusted with the bridge's maintenance. Under a prior agreement, the two states would share the cost of major rehabilitation or replacement.

The Adirondack Architectural Heritage group is actively advocating for preservation and rehabilitation of the Champlain Bridge, AARCH Executive Director Steven Engelhart said.

"We have argued that this option would not only save an important regional landmark, but early indications are that it would be the least costly, result in minimal disruption in traffic during reconstruction. It could be brought to completion the quickest of any alternative, and it's consistent with New York state's policies regarding the preservation of its engineering legacy."

E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com