Public’s top bridge choice proceeds to design phase

ADDISON — Vermont and New York transportation authorities are proceeding with the design of a “modified network tied arch” span that will replace the former Champlain Bridge at the same location.
That news was confirmed on Thursday by Vermont Gov. James Douglas and Gov. David Paterson of New York. The modified network tied arch scheme was the overwhelming public pick from among six possible replacement options for the Champlain Bridge, which was closed Oct. 16 and imploded on Dec. 28 after having been deemed by state officials to be unsafe and unsalvageable.
More than 4,000 people weighed in on the bridge design options through on-line polling and questionnaires handed out at public meetings in New York and Vermont. The Public Advisory Committee, created by Vermont and New York, also recommended this design option in December after gathering input from the public, elected officials and other interested groups.
The new bridge linking Addison, Vt., and Crown Point, N.Y., is expected to be built by the summer of 2011 at a cost of around $75 million, according to the New York State Department of Transportation, which is managing the project.
“This is another important step forward,” Douglas said in a press release. “Both the public and our bridge engineers agree that this is an appropriate design to replace the historic Lake Champlain Bridge. It will fit easily into the historic surroundings and be a source of pride for residents of both states for years to come.”
The modified network tied arch bridge is a steel structure that meets all the design criteria, transportation officials said. It is endowed with a basket-handle arch with a network cable arrangement and internally redundant box-tie girders supporting a composite pre-cast deck system. The design complements the natural environment and the historical setting of the bridge, transportation officials said.
Some members of the public said at the earlier public meetings that the design was reminiscent of the former Champlain Bridge.
The design’s lifespan is estimated to be at least 75 years. The Champlain Bridge was estimated to last 70 years when it was built and it served the region for 80 years.
Vermont, New York and the federal government will share the costs of construction. Earlier this month a Vermont transportation official estimated the total cost at $110 million, a figure that includes the costs of the bridge, the temporary ferry and the ferry’s operating costs. The federal government is expected to pay 80 percent of the costs (barring a larger percentage that could come from a Congressional earmark). Vermont and New York would be responsible for 10 percent each. The bridge costs, the officials said, could be spread over three fiscal years.
More details about the design can be viewed at www.nysdot.gov/lakechamplainbridge/alternatives.
In the meantime, workers continue to install a temporary ferry service around 1,000 feet south of the former bridge site. The service is expected to be operating by the end of the month, though transportation officials have yet to set a specific date.
On Jan. 14, the Lake Champlain Transportation Company began using a boat to cut ice in the area and keep the channel clear until the new ferry site is operational. In the meantime, the Essex/Charlotte Ferry continues to offer service.
In an effort to further enhance the transit schedule until new temporary ferry service is operational, bus schedules have been modified. The changes, which went into effect Jan. 14, can be accessed at www.lcbclosure.com. The new schedule is expected to shorten commute time for riders on both ends of the Essex-Charlotte run with slightly later start times, and earlier return times, all without giving up on-time service for existing destinations.

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