ADDISON - The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) completed a critical task in the process reestablishing a transportation link between their states, by demolishing the 80-year-old Lake Champlain Bridge, thus paving the way for a new bridge that will sit in the footprint of the former one.
As thousands lined the lakeshroe in a whiteout to watch the implosion in person, via the Internet and on television, New York's blasting subcontractor, Advanced Explosives Demolition (AED), used some 500 pre-set high-tech linear-shaped explosive charges to cut through the steel at 17,000 feet per second, bringing down the 80-year-old span in less than ten seconds.
Following a burst of bright light and a nearly simultaneous boom of greater than 130 decibels, spans numbers 4 through 9-or more than 80 percent of the bridge-dropped into Lake Champlain. The fallen portions and the concrete piers that supported them will be removed before next spring along with the remainder of the bridge. The lake in that vicinity is to be open to navigational traffic in April.
"We continue to move as quickly as possible to restore the vital connection between our states, and resume normal transportation across Lake Champlain on behalf of those who live near and depend on it in their daily lives," said New York Governor David A. Paterson. "The bridge coming down weighs heavy on our hearts, but it is a critical task that is now completed. The former Lake Champlain Bridge, which served our states well since it opened in1929, had outlived its lifespan. Once the new bridge is built, we will have an even more majestic connection between our states, and the communities in the surrounding areas will benefit from a span that will be more modern, but will preserve the environmental and historical integrity of the area."
"It was an honor to be a part of the effort today to bring down the old Lake Champlain Bridge. This is an important step in the processes of reestablishing this critical transportation link," said Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. "We want the new bridge in place as soon as possible, and today's effort will ensure that we are ready to begin building a replacement bridge in the spring, when the weather permits. This collaborative project with our partners in New York will protect our treasured connection between Crown Point, New York, and Chimney Point, Vermont that has existed for centuries."
The former Lake Champlain Bridge had been ordered closed on Oct. 16, 2009 when engineers who were in the process of repairing the upper portion of the span detected an exposed crack in one of the piers that had previously been submerged. Despite NYSDOT's rigorous inspection schedule which had shown underwater deterioration at the rate of about an inch every five years for some twenty years since New York and Vermont gained control of the bridge, from 2005 to 2008 an inexplicable 14 inches of additional deterioration had occurred, making the bridge unsafe and unstable.
The 2,184-foot-long bridge, also known as the Crown Point Bridge, was opened to traffic on Aug. 26, 1929 with a ribbon cutting ceremony conducted by New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vermont Governor John E. Weeks. It was a toll bridge until 1987 when the Lake Champlain Bridge Commission that operated it was abolished and ownership was transferred to New York and Vermont. On November 9, after the closure of the bridge and the conclusion of intensive testing, the two states announced that the investigation determined that it was not feasible to repair, and set the course for it demolition and construction of a new bridge in its place.
The demolition also was streamed live on the New York State Department of Transportation Web site, as well as the Web sites of several media outlets in New York and Vermont. A video of the demolition is available on the NYSDOT Web site at https://www.nysdot.gov/lakechamplainbridge.
NYSDOT engineers have been working with HNTB, an award-winning design consultant, to develop designs for the replacement bridge. HNTB, which has consistently ranked among Engineering News-Record's top design firms, fast-tracked the design phase of the new bridge, and presented its recommendations to the bridge Public Advisory Committee (PAC) as well as the general public earlier this month. New York and Vermont created the PAC in October 2009 to represent the public views regarding the old Lake Champlain Bridge and its replacement.
Both the PAC and the general public, through an in-person and an on-line survey made available by NYSDOT, viewed six renditions for a replacement bridge, and recommended a Modified Network, Tied Arch Bridge concept. The Modified Network, Tied Arch Bridge is a steel structure with a handle-like arch along the main span. Multiple redundancies in the design make this bridge significantly safer than the existing structure and ensure at least a 75-year service life. The design also is visually pleasing, complementing the mountainous back drop. A rendering of and more details about the Modified Network, Tied Arch Bridge can be found at www.nysdot.gov/lakechamplainbridge/alternatives.
Public preference will be one of many factors considered by NYSDOT and VTrans in the final determination of the design of the replacement bridge which is expected in January after further consultation with project stakeholders. Preliminary construction work for the new bridge is expected to begin in the spring 2010, and the new bridge is expected to be completed by late summer 2011.
New York and Vermont officials continue to work to establish a new ferry service in the vicinity of the bridge by the end of January.
The final moments of the Lake Champlain Bridge: 1929-2009.
Photos courtesy of The Times of Ti