Work pace quickens on Champlain Bridge

ADDISON — Recent flooding and high water levels on Lake Champlain have put a crimp in the construction of the new bridge linking West Addison to Crown Point, New York, though transportation officials said they are still driving for an Oct. 9 opening for the $70 million span.

“We have had to contend with the flood conditions and they have had an impact on our progress,” said John Grady, construction engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

Grady explained that high waters, which have thankfully receded in recent weeks, prevented equipment from getting to the construction site in a timely manner.

“It flooded out our causeway where we get deliveries and it flooded our piers,” Grady said.

But the biggest flood-related delay took place at Velez Marine in Port Henry, N.Y., where the massive arch for the new Champlain Bridge is being assembled. The construction area for the arch was underwater for more than a month this spring, though workers are now trying to make up for lost time, according to Grady.

“We are about halfway done with the floor of the arch,” Grady said. “The rest is being built in seven segments.”

Once completed later this summer or early fall, the arch will be floated by barge down to the construction site, where it will be hoisted into place. Meanwhile, Flatiron Construction is nearing completion of all the approach steel on the Vermont and New York sides to the bridge, Grady said.

Workers are now putting in some stay-in-place metal forms into which concrete components will be cast, first on the Vermont side of the span, then on the New York side.

The vast majority of pier work is complete, officials said.

Grady is optimistic the project will be completed by Oct. 9, the deadline for Flatiron to finish work. Flatiron is under contract to build the new modified network tied-arch span within 500 days. The contract includes a provision requiring Flatiron to absorb the costs of the adjacent, temporary ferry service (around $30,000 per day) for any period that exceeds the 500-day limit. At the same time, the contract provides a financial incentive (up to $1.5 million) for Flatiron to complete the work in less than 500 days.

“As of now, the goal remains Oct. 9,” Grady said. “We are working very hard to meet that goal.”

To that end, state authorities have stepped up work during this recent run of good weather in order to make up for lost time during a brutal winter and soggy spring.

People traveling past the construction site by ferry have been noticing recent progress. Progress was more difficult to notice during the early stages of the project, as work was largely confined to the span foundation beneath the surface of the lake.

“The steel just seems to go up faster because it is much more visible,” Grady said. “It sure is satisfying for people to see the form of the bridge go up.”

Lorraine Franklin is co-owner of the West Addison General Store and a member of an ad hoc group called the Lake Champlain Bridge Community that is planning a two-day celebration for the span opening this fall. That celebration is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16.

Franklin was out at the construction site earlier this week taking photos, marveling at how tantalizingly close the bridge is to completion.

“It looks like they’re going to get it done (in time),” Franklin said. “The progress is just amazing.”

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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Addison County Independent

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