Editor's Note: Wikipedia, the internationally award-winning Internet encyclopedia, has just updated and expanded its summary of the historic 80-year-old Champlain Bridge in its final moments before demolition. Several Vermont and New York writers and historians have contributed to this unique wiki sourcework on the bridge. The Eagle, with Wikipedia's permission, presents this look at our region's most visible 20th-century architectural icon. Farewell, old friend. You served us well.
The Champlain Bridge, also known as the Crown Point Bridge, was a vehicular bridge in the United States that traversed Lake Champlain between Crown Point, N.Y., and Chimney Point, Vt. It was one of only two bridges that connected New York to Vermont by crossing Lake Champlain; all other transport across the lake between the two states is by ferry. The bridge connected Route 185 in New York to Vermont 17 in Vermont. The half-mile, two-lane, continuous truss bridge was jointly owned and maintained by the New York State Department of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
The bridge opened to traffic on Aug. 26, 1929, as a toll span at a cost of $1 million; the tolls were removed in 1987. The bridge was closed due to safety concerns in October 2009 and will be demolished and replaced. Removal of the existing bridge will be accomplished by explosive demolition, and is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 10 a.m.
The bridge crossed Lake Champlain at a point 12 miles (19 km) north of Ticonderoga, N.Y., and 32 miles (51 km) south of Burlington. It connected Route 185 in Crown Point, to Route 17 in Chimney Point. The bridge was one of only two that links New York and Vermont by crossing the lake; the other, located near the Canada-United States border, carries U.S. Route 2 from Rouses Point to Alburgh.
The bridge was one of the first continuous truss road bridges built in the nation, and exhibits characteristics of both a through truss and deck-truss design.
The bridge was initially tolled, however, the tolls were removed on Sept. 22, 1987.
The bridge was rehabilitated in 1991. Work performed at that time included the replacement of the deck and railings, the repainting of the steel trusses, and the repairing of the bridge piers.
During the mid-2000s, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) launched the planning process for a project that would result in either the rehabilitation or replacement of the Champlain Bridge. At the time, the projected start date for the project was 2012. However, in 2009, an inspection performed on the bridge as part of the planning process revealed that two of the bridge's support piers were not structurally sound. As a result, the bridge was closed to all traffic on Oct. 16, 2009.
NYSDOT Regional Structural Engineer Thomas Hoffman commented that "Under certain conditions we were afraid the bridge could fail abruptly."
Prior to the closing, the bridge had already been reduced to one lane for structural steel repairs. On Nov. 9, officials in Vermont and New York announced that the bridge was beyond repair and would have to be demolished. A new bridge span will be built in its place.
On Dec. 12, NYSDOT and VTrans presented six design concepts for the new structure, one of which, the Modified Network Tied Arch, has since been recommended as a replacement by the Public Advisory Committee.
The closure of the bridge caused economic hardship for commuters and local businesses as traffic was greatly reduced on both sides of the lake. Two businesses that saw more activity were private ferry services, one about 15 miles (24 km) south of the bridge has been overwhelmed, while the other service, located about 25 miles (40 km) north of the bridge, expanded its hours of operation. Even with expanded hours, and New York state subsidies, the two private ferry services were unable to meet demand.