CROWN POINT In the wake of the the deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, attention around the country is turning to other structures that may prove unsound.
One of the main causes of local concern is located in Crown Point.
Built in 1929 the half-mile, two-lane Lake Champlain Bridge that spans the narrows between Addison, Vt., and Crown Point, is owned jointly by New York and Vermont. It is clearly showing its nearly a century of age, with advanced corrosion appearing in many spots on the structure. The bridge has been closed several times due to damage caused by overloaded commercial trucks.
The span was inspected Aug. 16 by the Vermont Department of Transportation.
The bridge is currently under consideration for replacement or rehabilitation by both the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Construction work is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2012.
We have not yet begun the scoping process for that project, and a great deal of information must be collected and evaluated before we will know whether the bridge will be rehabilitated or replaced, said NYSDOT spokesman Peter Van Keuren.
The bridge was last repaired in 1991. Construction work at that time included painting, repairing pier exteriors, and replacing the bridges deck, joints and railings.
In light of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, a spokesperson in the office of New York State Gov. Elliot Spitzer said engineers will begin a fresh inspection of the Lake Champlain Bridge this month. It is one of 49 state-owned spans in New York with similar structures to the I-35 deck truss bridge in Minnesota.
The Essex County board of supervisors, concerned about the safety of the structure, passed an unanimous resolution at their last full board meeting on Aug. 6 to encourage the project be placed on a fast track.
Crown Point Supervisor Dale French said a new structure is needed and soon. He said there were frequently heavy loads being taken across, and was concerned about the bridges structural integrity.
I'm just really worried that it's not going to make it and will have to be shut down. It would devastate the region economical, and cause turmoil in people's lives, said French.
French added that people who use the bridge need to contact their state and federal representatives to underscore the need for a safer structure.
In general, the bridges owned by Essex County are in sound.
Were in pretty fair shape. Essex County has a good rating, said Essex County DPW Superintendent Fred Buck.
According to Buck, the county has been pursuing an aggressive bridge replacement program for several years. At any one time about five bridges in the countys 132 bridge inventory are in some phase of rehab work or examination. The county completes about two bridge projects annually.
The bridges, which are rated on a 7 point scale, average about 5.5, one point above the state average. Currently there are five structures that are closed, four of which have been shut down permanently due to redundancy. One structure, the River Street Bridge in Chesterfield, is currently being studied.
There are three open bridges with a rating of less than four: Cold Brook Road in St. Armand, Otis Road in Elizabethtown, and Cemetery Road in Keene.
Buck said one of the main problems for bridge replacement comes from funding difficulties. On the state level, money collected from gas and oil taxes that are allotted to highway maintenance are often diverted to help balance the budget.
If they would leave the dedicated highway funds for highway and bridges, wed be in better shape, said Buck.
The county recently completed the contentious Jay Covered Bridge replacement project, which took twenty years while addressing sometimes contentious concerns from town residents. On Aug. 6 the county board passed a resolution to name the new structure the Essex County Emergency Services Volunteer Memorial Bridge. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime this autumn dedicating the new bridge and Douglas Memorial Park.
The Otis Mountain Lane Bridge is another contentious bridge project. At the Aug. 6 meeting, members of the Otis Mountain Camp & Home Owners Association addressed the board, requesting that the bridge be rehabilitated, rather than replaced. The Otis Mountain Bridge has the second-lowest rating in the county; only the Cold Brook Bridge, in St. Armand, has a lower rating. The Cold Brook will likely be the next bridge on the countys replacement schedule.