The arch of the new Champlain Bridge is being constructed in Port Henry and will be floated to the bridge site later this month.
Will the new Champlain Bridge open as scheduled Oct. 9?
No one seems to know.
“We are currently in discussions with the contractor to see what impact the spring weather and flooding has had on construction and determine when the bridge will be opened to traffic,” said Carol Breen, senior public information officer with the New York State Department of Transportation.
She declined to offer an opening date.
DOT officials have insisted the bridge project is on schedule, despite granting the contractor a 65-day extension to its project schedule in March.
Flatiron Constructors of Lafayette, Colo., is building the span. It was the low-bidder at $69.6 million.
Flatiron is under contract to build the new span within 500 days of groundbreaking. The contract includes a provision requiring Flatiron to absorb the costs of the adjacent, temporary ferry service — about $30,000 a day — for every day beyond the 500-day limit. The contract also provides a financial incentive — up to $1.5 million — for Flatiron to complete the work in less than 500 days.
While the opening date seems uncertain, work is continuing. The structure is taking shape between Crown Point and Addison, Vt.
“In terms of construction, we have completed assembly of the center arch span and are installing support cables and lighting on the arch,” Breen said. “We are pouring concrete decks on both the Vermont and New York sides of the bridge.”
At the same time the bridge arch is being constructed on barges in Port Henry and will be floated to the structure later this month, Breen said.
“We’re planning to lift the arch into place late this month,” she said. “The process will take two days. First, the arch will be loaded onto barges at Valez Marine and floated down the lake to the bridge site. A safe zone will be established around the arch barges during the transport, but the lake will not be closed. The arch will then have to be connected to lifting cables. The actual lift will occur on the second day and is expected to take between 12 and 18 hours. The main navigational channel under the bridge will be closed during the lift.”
The 300-foot-wide bridge will be based on a modified network arch design and will include bike paths and pedestrian walkways on both sides.
There may not be a definite date for the bridge to open, but a local group is proceeding with plans for a celebration Oct. 15 and 16 to mark the occasion. The Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition offered plans a series of events to celebrate the new span across the lake.
There are plans for a parade across the bridge, a street dance, a 5-kilometer road race, fireworks, a boat flotilla led by the Lois McClure and a visit from an Army Blackhawk helicopter.
The Lake Champlain Bridge was immediately closed in October 2009 when state transportation officials, without warning, declared it unsafe. The bridge served about 3,000 vehicles a day, meaning people who used the bridge daily to reach their jobs, health care facilities, grocery stores and other necessities were forced to take detours lasting up to four hours. The closing led to the closure of businesses on both sides of the lake and crippled tourism.
A temporary ferry service now links Crown Point and Addison, Vt.
The bridge was demolished in December 2009 and construction started on a new bridge in June 2010.