CROWNPOINT-The new Champlain Bridge is on schedule, according to the New York State Department of Transportation.
That's despite the fact DOThas granted the contractor a 65-day extension to its project schedule.
"The bridge is still on schedule overall, and the department has not changed its planned bridge opening date of Oct. 9, 2011," said Deborah Sturm Rausch, DOTcommunications director.
"As with any major construction project, unanticipated conditions and issues may be encountered that impact the work schedule," she said. "The work to install the drilled shaft substructures was delayed due to unanticipated underwater obstructions. The impacts of these substructure delays have been analyzed and that part of the project schedule has been adjusted by 65 days.
"The contractor and the department are exploring opportunities to accelerate other critical work to mitigate the impacts of the substructure delays," Rausch said. "The intent of this acceleration will be to maintain the department's goal of having the bridge open to traffic by Oct. 9, 2011."
Flatiron Construction, which is building the new span, has encountered underwater remnants of the old Champlain Bridge. That debris has hampered Flatiron's ability to drill shafts for the substructure of the new span. In addition, winter weather conditions have slowed work, Rausch explained.
Diane Lanpher, Vermont state represetative, met with construction and state officials recently. She said the debris from the old bridge has been a problem.
"After 3 million pounds of steel from our previous bridge fell on Dec. 28, 2009, when the bridge was demolished, the workers could not recover all that steel, due to the depth of the lake bottom soil, which hid some of the steel from detection," Lanpher said. "These steel pieces became a significant problem when the drilling of pier #5 began, and caused delays and damaged equipment. Further, pier #3 required a concrete re-pour when the first attempt did not meet standards. Both of these things added to some delay last summer. Thankfully, the costs associated with these unexpected problems all fell within the contract's margin of error."
Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider remains confident the new bridge will open in the fall.
"There was a 65 day extension given to cover for the time lost when Flatiron had to clean out the channel and for other problems that were unexpected," she said. "It doesn't mean Flatiron is going to be late ; it means this extra time is being allowed in case they cannot make up the time lost. I have heard they will be putting more crews on as the weather gets better in order to complete the bridge on time.
"We have a bridge opening to celebrate and I believe it will be done on time," Kosmider said. "Rumors run rampant and you can't believe everything you hear. I hope we can keep the positive momentum."
The local business community remains hopeful the new bridge opens as soon as possible, according to Matt Courtright, executive director of the Ticodneroga Area Chamber of Comemrce.
"It is my understanding although a 65-day extension was granted Flatiron and NYSDOT still have Oct. 9, 2011, as their target date for completion of the new bridge," Courtright said. "We certainly need to stay informed and up to date on the progress as it continues to effect area businesses. I do feel, however, we need to stay positive and focus on the fact that we will be getting a new bridge in 2011."
Flatiron is under contract to build the new $70 million modified network tied-arch 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.