CROWN POINT - When Crown Point Supervisor Dale French attends the next Champlain Bridge advisory committee meeting later this month, he'll have a simple message - let's hustle.
"It's like the project isn't important to anyone but us," French said. "It's frustrating that we can't get any action."
The aging Champlain Bridge that connects Crown Point with Vermont will be renovated or replaced beginning in 2013.
That's not soon enough for French and other local leaders who believe the project will miss out on federal stimulus money now being made available for such work.
"We have a lot of people who depend on that bridge to get to and from work every day, farmers who have cattle on both sides of the lake, people who go to Vermont for medical appointments and shopping," French said. "We need that bridge."
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava agrees.
"The Lake Champlain bridge is critical to our community," he said. "We have a large number of people who depend on that bridge every day.
"There are billions of dollars available for infrastructure projects and that bridge sits there," Scozzafava said. "I can't believe two states, two governors and four U.S. senators can't find away to fix that bridge."
The New York State Department of Transportation announced in June it had reached an agreement with the Vermont Agency of Transportation on a $50.1 million Champlain Bridge project. Construction is tentatively planned for 2013.
That's too late, French and Scozzafava agree.
"When you have billions in stimulus money available and a bridge in terrible condition, it's a no-brainer," Scozzafava said. "We need to act now."
The bridge is owned by both New York and Vermont, although New York has been entrusted with the bridge's maintenance. Under a prior agreement, the two states will share the cost of rehabilitation or replacement.
"It's a New York project, but we need to get Vermont more involved," French said. "Two states should be able to get faster action than one. We need to get going."
HTNB Corporation of New York City has been selected as design consultant. Options include rehabilitation or replacement of the existing bridge.
The 80-year-old bridge accommodates approximately 3,400 vehicles each day.
The existing structure is a combination of a thru-truss, deck-truss and deck plate girders measuring 2,184 feet in length on 14 spans.
The bridge received a "yellow flag" from the state in 2007 indicating it was in need of repair. Repairs to the bridge were completed in late 2008, and included removing loose concrete, doweling reinforcement into existing concrete and pouring new concrete pier caps. The "yellow flag" designation has since been removed.
However, the bridge is now limited to one-way traffic while more repairs are made.
One of the first tasks the HTNB Corporation will complete is an evaluation of the existing structure to determine the feasibility of rehabilitating the bridge, including cost of the work and potential impacts to motorists, according to a DOT statement. All options will be identified and evaluated and public input will be solicited before progressing with a particular alternative.
The public advisory committee formed three years ago, consisting of representatives from New York and Vermont, will have a say in the final plans.
French serves on that committee. He expects a fight between preservation groups who want to save the historic bridge and others who want a new bridge.
"The preservationists will be the loudest," French said. "But it would be really nice to see a new bridge that would accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists."
The advisory committee hasn't met in more than a year, French said, but when it did discussions centered on a new bridge to be constructed just south of the existing span. The current bridge would remain open two years while the new one is built, French said.
A new bridge has two major advantages over a renovation project, French said. It would be cheaper and it would allow for continued traffic flow.
Because of its construction type, French said, the current bridge can't be repaired one lane at a time. It would have to be renovated while closed.
"Closing that bridge would create a state of emergency," French said. "We have shared emergency services across the lake, not to mention the economic impact."
A temporary "military-style" bridge could be used during a renovation project, he said. That would interfere with lake traffic, though.
Public information meetings will be scheduled during the project's design phase to provide an opportunity for community input.
The public can comment on the project by emailing r01-lakechamplainbridge @dot.state.ny.us, writing NYSDOT, Region One Design, 328 State Street, Schenectady 12305, Attn: James C. Boni, P.E., or calling 388-0200.