Volunteer Archie Rosenquist stands outside the Lake Champlain Information Center, located in the old tollhouse of the Lake Champlain Bridge, on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, the day the bridge was originally slated to open. Due to flooding in the spring, construction was delayed, and the contractor — Flatiron Construction — was given a 65-day extension to finish the bridge. The new deadline: Dec. 13, 2011.
Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, was warm and sunny at the Lake Champlain Bridge.
Despite a haze that almost washed out the view of Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east and New York’s Adirondack Mountains to the west, colorful foliage was plentiful and visitors streamed through this interstate destination during the busy Columbus Day weekend.
But instead of traveling over the new bridge, motorists were still taking the free ferry from Crown Point to Chimney Point, Vt.
This was the day the bridge was supposed to open, according to the original timeline set forth by Flatiron Construction, which is building the $69.6 million span. Construction was delayed by historic flooding in April and May, and the state Department of Transportation (DOT) gave Flatiron a 65-day extension to complete the bridge.
The new deadline is Tuesday, Dec. 13, and incentives are in place for an early finish date, according DOT Executive Deputy Commissioner Stanley Gee, who gave a press conference Aug. 26 at the Crown Point State Historic Site.
Flatiron will earn $30,000 for each day it completes the bridge before Dec. 13. Likewise, it will cost the company $30,000 for each day past Dec. 13.
In the meantime, Oct. 9 was business as usual at the Lake Champlain Bridge construction site. Flatiron workers were busy, even on a Sunday during a holiday weekend, finishing a myriad of projects on the deck.
To do list
On Oct. 7 the DOT issued a bridge construction update on its website, showing that Flatiron is still working on the Vermont and New York approach roadways, the guard rails, the open mesh pedestrian fencing, concrete pours to connect the precast deck and sidewalk panels, and finishing touches to the bridge’s lighting system.
To secure the spaces between the 32 deck panels and all the sidewalk panels, Flatiron will be placing rebar between the precast panels for a series of small transverse concrete closure pours. In addition, they will connect the sidewalk panels to the deck panels with concrete “longitudinal closure” pours.
After the completion of the deck and sidewalks, it’s time for the installation of curbing, bridge guard rails and pedestrian rails/fencing. Sidewalks have been placed on both sides of the bridge.
Lighting will also be completed soon before the bridge opens. There will be standard navigation lighting, lighting within the pedestrian fence hand rail (to provide adequate lighting at the sidewalks) and aesthetic lighting highlighting the features of the arch.
To limit the weight of the Aug. 26 lift, the arch was placed without the concrete deck, connecting the 1.8 million pound, 402-foot arch with the New York and Vermont steel work. Since the lift, Flatiron has completed a number of projects on the Lake Champlain Bridge, focusing mainly on the concrete deck work.
•The precast deck and sidewalk panels were installed.
•The final concrete pour on the Vermont approach span was completed on Sept. 30.
•The final concrete pour on the New York approach span was completed on Oct. 7.
Precast deck and sidewalk panels were used to speed up the construction.
Archie Rosenquist was wearing his “Port Henry, N.Y. on Lake Champlain: Home of the Arch” T-shirt while volunteering at the Lake Champlain Information Center on Oct. 9. Located in the old bridge tollhouse (circa 1929), the information center distributes brochures for attractions in Vermont and New York and helps educate visitors about the lake’s history with interpretive panels.
Rosenquist lives in the Port Henry-Westport area, and he has been volunteering at the information center for several years. He remembers when the tollhouse was renovated in the summer of 2009, the last summer the original Lake Champlain Bridge was open.
“The day we got our certificate of occupancy, they closed the bridge,” Rosenquist said.
That was Oct. 16, 2009. The bridge, which opened in 1929, was falling apart and deemed unsafe. By the end of the 2009, the bridge was blown up with explosives to make way for a modern replacement. In the summers of 2010 and 2011, Rosenquist has seen a decline in the number of visitors at the information center, even with the free ferry service, located between the center and the state campground.
“The attendance hasn’t been much because of the construction,” Rosenquist said, adding that he’s seen more visitors from Vermont than New York.
The information center is operated by the Lake Placid-Essex County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
DOT officials will not yet give an opening date for the bridge but said it would happen before 2012.
The bridge celebration originally slated for Oct. 15-16, 2011, was postponed until May 19-20, 2012, due to the delay in construction. And to mark the second anniversary of the original bridge’s closure, the Lake Champlain Bridge Community held an event on Oct. 16 called “Almost a Bridge” Fundraiser & Gathering at the Crown Point State Historic Site.