CROWN POINT - After more than 80 years of service, the Lake Champlain Bridge has been retired.
The span, which was closed Oct. 16 after structural problems were discovered, was demolished Dec. 28 to make way for a new bridge.
"It was a little sad," said Nancy Frasier, Times of Ti photographer, who covered the demolition. "After all these years to see it come down like that was sad."
Construction of a new bridge is planned to start in the spring with completion targeted for summer 2011.
A new ferry service is being readied near the former bridge in Crown Point to serve motorists while a new structure is being built. The Ticonderoga ferry is also running with the help of anti-ice measures.
The Lake Champlain Bridge opened Aug. 26, 1929, with two governors - New York's Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vermont's John L. Weeks - leading the festivities.
This week's demolition was nearly as festive. Hundreds of people turned out in New York and Vermont to watch as the bridge was imploded and crashed into the lake. Public viewing areas were set up at Port Henry Beach and Bulwagga Bay in New York as well as along Route 125 in Vermont.
The spectacle was televised live and broadcast on the internet. It was covered by more than 100 media members.
Snow and fog at the time of the demolition limited visibility to a half mile.
Sirens sounded 10, 5 and 1 minute before the demolition to warn people of the blast, but many of those watching missed the actual explosion because it happened so quickly - in about 2 seconds.
Slow-motion replays of the event showed a series of 500 charges exploding along the 2,184-foot bridge and its collapse.
"I could see it well," said Frasier, who was located in a special media zone at the Crown Point Historic Site. "There was some fog, but I could clearly see the lights (charges) flashing, the explosion and the bridge coming down.
"It was kinda exciting," she added.
Some of those planning to watch the event gave up because of the conditions.
"I went to Port Henry to watch the demolition, but there was zero visibility so I went home to watch it on TV," Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider said. "From what I saw, it was very quick, not as loud as they said it would be and an impressive display of precision by a internationally-known company.
"It is sad to see the old bridge go down, but staying focused to the future, I am hopeful that the new bridge will move along as smoothly as the demolition," she said. "Mother Nature certainly did not want to cooperate today but the job was accomplished anyway."
New York Gov. David Paterson said the demolition is a key step in restoring normal traffic to the region.
"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," Paterson said.
"The bridge coming down weighs heavy on our hearts, but it is a critical task that is now completed," he said. "The former Lake Champlain Bridge, which served our states well since it opened in 1929, 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."
Roads leading to the bridge were closed to the public. A safety zone of 1,000 feet was established for land access and a 2,000 foot no-fly zone was declared by the Federal Aviation Association.
The demolition was handled by Advanced Explosives Demolition, Inc. of Idaho.
In order to protect the public during the Lake Champlain Bridge demolition and subsequent debris removal, the United States Coast Guard has established a water safety zone of a minimum of 1,000 feet on either side of the bridge.
No vessels, vehicles or people are permitted within the area without Coast Guard approval through April 15 to allow the channel to be cleared of debris.