Visitors gathered here Wednesday, Aug. 24 as Flatiron Construction workers put the finishing touches on the arch span that will be a key component of the new Lake Champlain Bridge.
The arch had been scheduled to be lifted into place the next day, but because of forecasts of high winds and lightning, the transfer was postponed until Friday, Aug. 26.
Jane Laundree, of Ticonderoga, said she and her companions were debating whether to attend the then scheduled early morning arch raising the next day.
“It’s a historical moment,” Laundree said, explaining why she was at the construction site. “I think it’s awesome.”
Albert Mayer, of Port Henry, said he was there to see the construction.
“I worked on bridges all the way from Georgia up to New York state,” Mayer said, adding he was going to try to arrive at 4 a.m. the next day to see the raising.
Laureen Oxley Carson and George Carson, both from Mineville, were excited for the bridge opening.
Laureen said living without a bridge was “extremely inconvenient.”
“My daughter, Thistle, worked over at Northlands and sometimes she will be on the road three or four hours, in the winter especially,” Laureen said. “This is a pretty big project for this area. It lends a lot of excitement.”
“I think it’s fantastic,” George said of the structure opening. “I’m sick of not having a bridge.”
New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald said the lift would demonstrate the bridge project is nearing completion.
“This is an exciting and historic moment for the people in the region who heavily depend on the bridge for their livelihoods. I would like to extend my appreciation to them for their patience as we move forward toward the final phase of the project,” McDonald said.
NYSDOT expects the transport process to begin at sunrise on Friday with lift work extending into the late afternoon or early evening that same day. The arch will be floated from its construction site at Velez Marine in Port Henry to the bridge site over a two- to four-hour period. The lift is expected to last between four and eight hours.
The main navigational channel through the center span will be closed as the arch is floated into position, lifted into place and secured. Marine traffic will be directed through an alternative navigational channel during this time period.
The ferry connecting New York State to Vermont will remain open and operational at all times during the work. However, higher than average traffic levels near the bridge site may cause some highway traffic congestion.
DOT officials are warning sightseers that there will be limited parking available to witness the historic arch placement on the Champlain Bridge, as there will be no extra parking created for this event.
Free parking will be available at the Essex County Visitor Center on the Bridge Road and the Crown Point State Historic Site. Parking at the nearby Crown Point Campground, operated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), will cost $6 per car.
As of Thursday afternoon, DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell said managers at the Crown Point Campground were not making any special plans to deal with the expected crowds on Aug. 25. While onlookers are welcome to pay for parking and watch the day’s activities from the campground’s Day Use Area, DEC staff will also be sending referring people to the Crown Point State Historic Site for free parking.
(Assistant Managing Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this story.)