CROWN POINT - Local residents upset with the closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge have formally united.
The Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition has been formed to relay the concerns of those affected to state leaders.
"Our goals are to quickly get a new ferry in at the present day bridge site, quickly get a new bridge at the present day bridge site and restore traffic to that corridor," explained Barb Brassard, a coalition member and executive director of the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Without the Lake Champlain/Crown Point Bridge and normal traffic patterns, local businesses found an immediate decrease in business," Brassard said. "Their losses range from 30 to 90 percent. This is a huge impact to our struggling businesses that may not survive.
"This is the short term impact," she added. "The long term impact would surface next summer when the tourists normally arrive. Without the bridge to channel visitors here we could be facing an even more devastating impact and more businesses closing. Jobs will be lost and storefronts will close. This is a hit that our region cannot afford and could be the death of our area as we knew it."
Karen Hennessey of Crown Point is the coalition leader.
The group formed during a return trip from Albany Nov. 10 where residents took their concerns to the state capital.
About 20 local people made the trip. They were joined by state Sen. Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, local officials and community members from Saratoga County to rally support for investments in bridge and roadway projects.
The lawmakers said there are 110 New York State bridges with a safety rating the same or worse than the bridge in Crown Point now deemed too dangerous for traffic, according to a New York State Department of Transportation bridge safety report.
"The North Country communities I represent are reeling because of the bridge closure," said Little. "Thank goodness no one was killed as a result of the bridge failing. But the closure has resulted in a state of emergency having to be declared and costly steps being taken to mitigate the financial impact on families and businesses. This is much more than an inconvenience, it is a real hardship. The question many of us are wondering is where is the next Crown Point Bridge?"
Sayward agreed the Lake Champlain Bridge closure is more than an inconvenience.
"The closure of this bridge has affected many lives," she said. "People are struggling to get back and forth from work, creating long, stressful days. Farmers need to tend to their animals; people require medical services. Residents have been inconvenienced long enough, with inclement weather coming upon us we must act now. We are looking to the governor to find funds so we can resolve this sooner than later."
The Saratoga County residents expressed worry about the Batchellerville Bridge.
State Sen. Hugh T. Farley said, "The time to address this (Batchellerville) situation is now, rather than having to react to the traumatic impact of a closure, like in the Crown Point situation. Both of these bridges are indicative of the broader problems that need to be addressed throughout the State."
A DOT report issued this past May listed hundreds of bridges in need of attention. The Crown Point Bridge, also known as the Lake Champlain Bridge, had a safety rating of 3.38. More than 100 bridges received a lower score in that report.
The Batchellerville Bridge, built in 1930 and last inspected by DOT in August 2008, has a safety rating of 3.35 out of 7.00. The 3,000-foot span has been reduced to one-way traffic.