ADDISON — The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) confirmed on Friday that an Idaho-based firm has been picked to demolish the Champlain Bridge, and that the event will be publicized for safe viewing.
In other related news, work continues on a new ferry service that is being established just south of the Champlain Bridge, and Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) has given more than 2,000 rides to commuters seeking alternative routes across or around the lake since the 80-year-old span closed to traffic on Oct. 16.
Advanced Explosives Demolition Inc. is the company that “will plan for and execute the controlled demolition of the steel truss bridge,” NYSDOT officials stated in a press release.
“Details on the bridge demolition will be well advertised and safe public viewing locations will be determined,” the release states. “The demolition contractor will establish safety protocols for contractor employees and for the public to which they must adhere. The public will be prohibited from the area immediately surrounding the bridge, including the land, water and air. Access to certain roads also will be restricted for a distance to be specified by the states and contractor to ensure public safety.”
Authorities have yet to establish a specific date for the bridge demolition.
“We want the bridge down before the ice forms,” John Zicconi, director of planning, outreach and community affairs for the Vermont Department of Transportation, said of the preferred timing of the big event.
“We anticipate this will draw a big crowd,” he added.
This NYSDOT held three identical public meetings this past Saturday, Dec. 12, in Ticonderoga, N.Y.,, regarding replacement of the bridge. The meetings featured presentations detailing several replacement bridge alternatives, followed by question and answer sessions. Attendees were asked for input on design features, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, lighting and materials used, as well as the style of the new bridge. Options for commemorating the historic bridge were also discussed.
Renderings showing each of the alternatives will be made available on NYSDOT’s Web site at www.nysdot.gov/lakechamplainbridge. A survey also will be available until midnight on Monday, Dec. 14, so the public can make their preferred bridge concept known. Results will be considered before a final decision is made, according to transportation officials.
In the meantime, Zicconi said the dock/pier work on the new temporary ferry system is “well under way.”
“We have gotten the land permits and we anticipate construction in the water this week,” Zicconi said last week.
Vermont transportation officials said they could not yet set a specific date on when the new ferry would begin service.
Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, noted that Vermont and New York’s Congressional delegations have joined state lawmakers in lobbying the federal government for prompt support of the temporary ferry and construction of a new bridge at the same location.
“Getting temporary ferry service in place — and ultimately building a new bridge — is essential for restoring economic stability to this area,” reads a letter from the Empire State and Green Mountain State’s federal lawmakers to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “We hope you can be of assistance in this effort.”
Meanwhile, ACTR has been assisting passengers who have been taking the two ferry services still in operation (Fort Ti and Charlotte to Essex N.Y.).
Effective last Wednesday, with less than 24 hours notice, ACTR re-routed its Basin Harbor Ferry shuttle bus service to the Charlotte ferry location, providing rides into Vergennes and Middlebury.
“Overall, our involvement in transporting New York commuters has been pretty amazing,” said ACTR Executive Director Jim Moulton.
Since beginning emergency services on Oct. 26, ACTR has provided more than 2,000 fare-free rides for commuters to their Addison County employers — including an average of 60 rides per day between the Basin Harbor Club and Vergennes employers (for a total of 1,501) — primarily Goodrich, Northlands Job Corps and Country Home Products.
In addition, ACTR’s Dial-a-Ride Service has taken off. Since starting the service on Nov. 11, the bus company has provided more than 400 rides and is now averaging 35-40 rides per day. The service features volunteer drivers who meet pedestrian riders — mostly at the Fort Ti Ferry in Shoreham, but also at the Charlotte ferry and the Adirondack Trailways bus drop-off points. Clients are driven to employers like Champlain Valley Equipment, G. Stone Motors, Paris Farmers Union, Addison Central schools, Middlebury Family Health, Porter Medical Center, Helen Porter Nursing Home, Middlebury College, Country Home Products and Agri-Mark.
“The riders have been so thankful and appreciative,” Moulton said. “It makes the extra staff my staff has been doing so worthwhile.”