Press-Republican

Local News

November 9, 2009

Champlain Bridge can't be repaired

ADDISON, Vt. — The ultimate bad news for users of the shuttered Champlain Bridge came Monday, when the historic span was declared unrepairable.

At a hastily called press conference on the Vermont side of the bridge, New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said that incline cracks in the concrete bridge pillars are so severe the span is in jeopardy of collapsing into Lake Champlain.

Gee said the Crown Point bridge will be demolished and a new span built on its footprint, but he had no timetable yet for those actions.



‘TOO DANGEROUS’

Complete underwater inspections of the bridge’s pillars just concluded, he said, and the report that was issued was not good.

“It’s the recommendation that this 80-year-old bridge cannot be rehabilitated. The bridge is unsafe for motorists. It’s also unstable. We’re recommending that this bridge be torn down.”

The bridge was closed Oct. 16 after a preliminary underwater inspection showed cracks in the bottoms of two pillars. A complete inspection using divers was then ordered; it was completed at the end of October.

DOT Chief Engineer Robert Dennison said the final inspection report was alarming.

“I can’t ensure that the bridge is not subject to sudden collapse. The foundations were constructed in the 1920s of unreinforced concrete. It’s too dangerous to work around and too dangerous to repair.”



DEMOLITION SOON

Eighteen inches of concrete is eroded from some of the piers below the water line, the report said, and there are large cracks extending through the supports.

Dennison said demolition should start quickly because ice conditions around the piers this winter could weaken them further.

The closest alternate land route around the bridge is a two-hour detour through Whitehall.

Ferries operating between Essex and Charlotte, Vt., and Ticonderoga and Shoreham, Vt., are now free, with the states picking up the cost.

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