Press-Republican

Local News

February 20, 2010

Champlain Bridge destroyed on 80th anniversary

Champlain Bridge a landmark for 80 years

For 80 years, the Champlain Bridge served the people of the Champlain Valley during wars, depressions and prosperous times.

Locals were enamored of its unique architecture that could be seen for miles across the lake.

But in the end, the landmark bridge beloved of so many fell victim to delayed maintenance and deteriorated beyond the point of repair. It was destroyed Dec. 28, 2009, by controlled explosive charges, and a new bridge is slated to be built by summer 2011.

ELABORATE CELEBRATION

The Champlain Bridge was a rare engineering marvel, said Adirondack Architectural Heritage Executive Director Steven Engelhart.

"A lot of things don't hold up as one-of-a-kind, and the Champlain Bridge really did. It's a huge loss in terms of losing a nationally important piece of American engineering."

The Champlain Bridge opened Aug. 26, 1929, amid elaborate ceremonies that featured, among others, Franklin Delano Roosevelt — then governor of New York — and Vermont Gov. John Weeks.

The crowd that day was estimated at about 40,000 people, and the event included a 30-float parade, the 125-voice Green Mountain Chorus, 25 state troopers and 7,000 cars.

At 2,900 feet long and 32 feet wide, the concrete and steel continuous-truss structure was an ambitious project for its time.

The span was originally constructed for $870,000, with New York and Vermont sharing the cost.

According to the State Department of Transportation, it cost $188,000 to hire a demolition subcontractor from Idaho to destroy it with radio-controlled explosive charges.

The bridge had been closed since Oct. 16, 2009, when large cracks were discovered in its concrete pillars. Despite the DOT's assertion that the bridge could collapse at any time, the 800 pounds of plastic explosives used to blow it into the lake didn't budge the pillars.

BEDROCK IS BETTER

A campaign by the now-defunct weekly Essex County-Port Henry News is what spurred New York and Vermont to build the massive toll bridge.

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