ferry

CROWN POINT — The closure of Champlain Bridge has made life difficult for Addison, Vt., farmer Lee Kayhart and his son, Lee Kayhart.

They keep 180 of their cows in Crown Point.

The Kayharts have been having to walk across the bridge, which links Crown Point and Chimney Point, Vt., to feed the cattle.

On Monday, Steve had to move a load of cattle from the New York farm back to Vermont.

“Usually, it would take about a half an hours,” he said. “It took three and half hours and two men using the ferry in Ticonderoga. That’s not a sustainable answer.

“My main concern at this point is separating the bridge-repair issue from opening travel routes across the lake. They need to look at military pontoon bridge or a temporary ferry service here to open up that line of travel. We have to work toward an immediate solution.”



EMERGENCY DECLARED

A vital traffic artery was severed when the Champlain Bridge was barricaded Friday due to structural damage, debilitating commerce on both sides of Lake Champlain.

Essex County supervisors have demanded that New York and Vermont declare a state of emergency to remove red tape.

Vermont did that Tuesday, but New York had not as of mid afternoon.

Vermont Transportation Secretary David Dill says the declaration could help get federal help and re-prioritize state money to help repair or replace the bridge.



BUSINESS SINKS

Cindy Bodette runs Frenchman’s Restaurant in Crown Point, usually a busy place on weekends, with traffic to and from big stores in Ticonderoga.

Many of her longtime customers are Vermonters.

“We saw a 40-percent drop in business last weekend,” she said.

“People have built their lives around this bridge. It’s sad they let it get into this state of disrepair.”



SUPPLIER STYMIED

A. Johnson Lumber Co. in Bristol, Vt., typically ships paper-quality wood chips to IP Mill in Ticonderoga, usually a straight shot of about 30 miles over the bridge.

Company owner Ken Johnson said they also maintain a log yard in Elizabethtown.

Since the bridge closed, logistics are proving a real challenge.

“It is difficult to get on and off the ferry with a tractor. We’re going to end up going around to the Burlington ferry,” adding at least 70 miles and two hours to the trip.

The company also has five employees who commute from New York to Vermont.

One of them left home near Crown Point early Monday, Johnson said, and had to wait through three ferry crossings before he could board in Ticonderoga.

“I don’t know how the employees are going to cope. Are they going to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to get here on time?

“I don’t think state officials realize the extent of the effect of this. It seems like we need a bridge, a modern bridge.”

The bridge has also been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, an action that may require it to be repaired instead of replaced.

“Historical is interesting, but we also need transportation for jobs and general running of commerce,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, somebody comes up with a smart solution for the short term and a good solution for the long term.”



TI MILL TIED UP

Donna Wadsworth, communication manager at International Paper Ticonderoga Mill, said they are following the issue very closely.

Twenty percent of the IP mill’s fiber supply comes from Vermont and points east, she said.

“The increased transport time impacts turn-around time by these suppliers, and the added mileage increases wood and fiber transportation costs. In turn, these impact mill costs and wood-fiber availability.”

Six IP employees who live in Vermont are enduring long commutes at added cost and time.

“As winter weather approaches, this takes on increased concern for safety,” said Mill Manager Kirk Carlson.

“Several of these employees cover on-call hours, and the increased commute time adds to their response time. This is especially noted during evening and late-night hours when the ferry does not operate and they must follow the 100-mile detour route. We look for a timely, safe solution.”

Engineers from the New York State Department of Transportation closed the bridge four days ago when they found a diagonal crack through the concrete in Pier 5.

The concrete pillar, built in 1929, is standing due to the sheer weight of the bridge, DOT Regional Engineer Mike Fayette told Essex County supervisors.



FERRY RUNS

Tuesday morning was business as usual at the Lake Champlain Transportation Co. crossing in Essex, NY. In fact, it seemed surprisingly slow in light of the bridge closure.

“It was really bad Friday right after the bridge closed,” ferry operator Candy James said Tuesday morning.

But at 8 a.m. Tuesday, only seven vehicles and one walking passenger made the crossing from Essex to Charlotte.

“I got here extra early, 20 to 5 (a.m.), just in case,” said James.

The first ferry is now running at 5:30 a.m., verses the usual 6:30, and the last run heads out at 10 p.m. A third boat has been brought from Port Kent to help.

While the early ferries were full, everybody got on.

“It also depends on the trucks,” James noted. “We only had one logging truck.

“They’re (the commuters) trying both options of going here and Ticonderoga. A lot are buying commuter books of 20 tickets.”

A commuter book contains 20 one-way tickets and sells for $133, which is less expensive than the $190 it would cost for 20 individual tickets.



EASY RIDERS

Tony Vagianos of Essex works in Middlebury and kept his vehicle on the Charlotte side. Tony took it in stride but feels it wasn’t as much of a hardship to him as to others.

When Cherrie Maxwell of Elizabethtown saw the warning sign posted on Route 22 about two miles west of Essex on Monday, she was concerned. She and her family were going to the Flynn Theater in Burlington, and they were worried about congestion. But they were able to make the 10 p.m. ferry back from Charlotte without a problem.

Tuesday morning, she was heading back to Vermont for an appointment and again was relieved that the traffic around 8 a.m. was light.

Carol Linder of Westport, who uses the ferry several times a month, was on her way to visit an ill relative.

“I was expecting more traffic and got here earlier than usual. I imagine it is a huge hardship for many.”

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