It’s been called a miracle. Others call it a necessity. And yet by some it’s a matter of historic proportion. But no matter what you call it our two year and a month sentence of life in the North Country without the Lake Champlain Bridge has now come to an end.
Estimated to take up to eight years to rebuild, the span, condemned in October of 2009, had stood for over 81 years. The new bridge erected in the same historic spot now stands as a shining example of what can be accomplished even when the odds are not in your favor.
The public was repeatedly told just before its closure, that the bridge was safe. Then like a lightning strike the bridge was closed and within a few weeks completely demolished. Any chance of a reprieve for the old girl was sent to the bottom on that cold snowy December day.
Like so many things in life we take for granted, none of us living in the region imagined life without this major artery between New York and Vermont. The devastation on family lives, work schedules, interstate commerce and medical necessities seemed almost unbearable at the time. Locals were quick to realize an extraordinary effort was an absolute must, but the thought of getting two state governments, the federal government and a host of bureaucratic agencies to come together, recognize the gravity of the situation and respond rapidly, even knowing what we know now today, would seem like a lot to expect from them.
We all owe a considerable amount to the many volunteer organizers who rallied to the cause, all of our local elected officials who joined in the effort, the state agency workers and the two governors and their staffs all who clearly understood the significant importance of the bridge between Crown Point, NY and Addison, VT.
At a time when the economy was already struggling and in an area where critical mass does not exist in comparison to more populated regions, the new Champlain Lake Bridge stands today as shining monument to what people and government can accomplish when truly pressed for a quick realistic solution to a dire problem.
Perhaps like those who were here when the first Lake Champlain Bridge was erected in 1929, every time they went by the bridge or travel across its span they remembered what travel was like before the bridge stood. Never again in our life times will we ever take the bridge for granted nor forget those days before the Lake Champlain Ferry Transportation Company was able to restore a temporary passage across the lake. Never again will any us who depend on the bridge for our livelihoods, or even a day of relaxed travel ever forgot what life was like without that all important link.
And we should never forget all those who worked night and day through the frigid cold of our North Country winters, nor the blistering summer heat to restore the bridge. The bridge stands as a proud marker to the Bridge Coalition and all those who played a role in its restoration. None of us will ever cross this bridge or any bridge again without thinking of its importance to the people who live there and have come to depend so heavily on the strength of its existence.
True, heart felt “Appreciation” is a tremendous gift, and it’s the ribbon on top of that shining new bridge that once again graces our beautiful Lake Champlain. May we never again think of anything but true appreciation for it and those who helped make it happen whenever it comes into sight.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.