CROWN POINT - After a shift as a police officer in Shelburne, Vt., Bruce Beuerlein used to relax during his hour drive home to Ticonderoga.
No more. With the Lake Champlain Bridge in Crown Point closed, Beuerlein is now faced with worries about his route home. Will the lines at the ferry be shorter than the 90-mile detour through Whitehall? And what about the next day? He can't afford to be late for work.
"Betrayed," Beuerlein said when asked his feelings on the bridge closure. "That's how I feel."
He's not alone.
Bill Buell, a Crown Point resident who also depends on the bridge to get to and from work, has called for everyone associated with the span to be fired.
Mark Alford of Port Henry, another commuter, has suggested people file lawsuits against the state for its neglect of the bridge.
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava understands the emotions of those who count on the Lake Champlain Bridge.
"It's the government's responsibility to provide a safe transportation system for our constituents," he said. "We let them down."
The bridge, which serves about 4,000 vehicles a day, links New York and Vermont. It was closed Oct. 16 when an inspection found its concrete piers had disintegrated.
The bridge is jointly owned by the states of New York and Vermont, although New York DOT is responsible for its maintenance.
The bridge, built in 1929, has been the site of repair work since mid-summer. Plans are being made to replace the bridge in 2013.
To help commuters deal with the bridge closure, New York State has established an outreach center. It can be reached by calling toll-free number (888)769-7243. The center, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, can also be reached by calling 485-1159.
The state has also made "impact statements" available to commuters. They are available at the Crown Point town office or by calling 597-3035.
"They are forms that people can fill out to let New York State know what impact the bridge closure is having on their lives - commuting, medical, financial, etc.," explained Wendy Ingleston, clerk to the Crown Point supervisor. "We also now have impact statements for businesses available, too."
Service at the Ticonderoga Ferry has been extended to assist motorists. The ferry, which was scheduled to close for the season Oct. 31, will now stay open until Nov. 15 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
About 50 people rallied at the bridge Oct. 25, demonstrating their concerns.
"For most of us living on either side of the lake, our incomes provide only the essentials as we struggle to keep up with rising food and fuel cost," said Pastor David Hirtle of the First Congregational Church of Crown Point, who organized the rally. "And now, a tariff, as it were, in the form of a 100-mile detour or the added time and expense of a ferry trip."
Gov. David Paterson declared a state disaster emergency in Essex County and other areas affected by the closing of the Lake Champlain Bridge Oct. 21. That declaration is expected to assist the state in securing funds and permits needed to repair the span.
No timeline for repairs has been announced, although the state DOT had called a public meeting Oct. 28 at Moriah Central School to address the bridge closure.