The Lake Champlain bridge will open to the public after a 2:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony today.
Motorists will be allowed to cross the Lake Champlain Bridge today immediately following the 2:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating its opening.
The ceremony will take place on the New York side of the span, with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin meeting New York State Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy to officially open the bridge after 745 days of being shut down.
The event is expected to take less than an hour. Spectators will be allowed to take part by walking on the bridge from both the New York and Vermont sides, a representative of the governor’s office said.
Susan Allen, a spokesperson for Shumlin, said details of the ceremony were still being worked out Friday morning, but noted that the Vermont governor is anxious to attend.
“The governor is very pleased that the bridge is reopening,” Allen said. “This is a critical transportation route for so many Vermonters and New York State residents. Reopening the bridge is truly worth celebrating.”
New York Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who has chaired the citizen’s advisory committee for the bridge replacement, said she most definitely will be in attendance.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Sayward said. “It’s been a long time coming. This is wonderful news for the people who travel back and forth between the states.”
While ferry service provided by Lake Champlain Transportation has helped commuters, the crossing still adds half an hour to 45 minutes to daily commutes, Sayward said.
It has been more than two years since the New York State Department of Transportation closed the bridge without warning, saying the bridge abutments had deteriorated beyond repair, making the bridge unsafe to travel across.
It was demolished in a series of explosions Dec. 28, 2009, and construction of the new $70 million bridge began in June 2010.
Sayward said the original plan for replacing the bridge had construction beginning in 2013, so the replacement actually happened ahead of schedule.
“It seems like it’s been a long time, but it could have been a lot longer without the input from everyone involved,” she said.
Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider said she was “thrilled” to hear the bridge would finally be opening.
Like Sayward, she said ferry service has helped commuters cross the lake, but said the bridge will shave a lot of time off the drive.
“I’m especially thrilled for commuters,” Kosmider said. “It seems like it’s been a long time. All our efforts are finally coming to fruition.”
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said he was happy to hear the bridge is opening, especially since rumors were circulating that it might not open until 2012.
"I'm pleased to see it open," Scozzafava said. "It will remove a true hardship for the hundreds of people who use that bridge every day."
Scozzafava said former governors Jim Douglas of Vermont and David Paterson of New York, deserve credit in helping bring the project to fruition. He also said he hopes the two neighboring states reconsider the plan to remove the ferry landings that were built to accommodate ferry traffic while the bridge was being built.
He said the landings could be used for recreational purposes like fishing and boating and said it makes no sense to spend taxpayer money to build the landings and then demolish them.
"With the fiscal situation of both New York and Vermont, I think it makes more sense not to spend the money on their removal," he said.
Sue Hoxie, marketing and communication director at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, said Friday morning the chamber had yet to receive a direct invitation to the ribbon-cutting, but said they plan to be there nonetheless.
“Plans are still coming together,” Hoxie said. “But we plan to be there on Monday. We’re very excited the bridge is finally opening. It was a long time coming. It's a big relief to residents and businesses on both sides of Lake Champlain. The bridge will return a vital corridor of commerce to all of us.”
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Kosmider and Sayward each said the new bridge will, no doubt, stimulate commerce on both sides of the lake.
“This should return things back to normal for us,” Kosmider said.
Lorraine Franklin, Vermont co-chair of the Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition, said her group is sending out invitations to the ribbon-cutting ceremony and expects a large turn out.
"Invitations are going out as we speak," she said. "The '29ers group, who saw the first bridge open back in 1929, have been invited. The news media will be invited, too. This is a big deal."
Franklin said an even bigger opening celebration — complete with a parade and fireworks — is being coordinated by the coalition and will take place May 19 and 20, 2012.