While I don’t shuttle between New York and Vermont across Lake Champlain on a daily basis, I do understand the hassle commuters have been experiencing since the 1929 bridge was closed and demolished. In fact, the word “hassle” is probably too tame to use here. Lots of emotions—from feelings of loss to near violence—have been experienced by commuters and business owners on both sides of the lake.
For some, sadly, the bridge crisis marked the end of a business or a job. The negative impact on our local economy will be discussed for years to come.
Case in point: Our newspaper had a young employee we’ll call Jim who lived in Crown Point, N.Y. Two years ago, he faced a daunting challenge to get to his prime sales grounds—Middlebury, Brandon and Rutland.
In Jim’s case, getting across the lake was a major stress factor for many months. For a time, he drove south from Crown Point to Whitehall and worked his way back to Middlebury. But that never really worked and disrupted a successful flow he had already established.
While some individuals were touting how wonderful it was that a commuter shuttle was running into Middlebury from several ferry points; Jim viewed it as an utterly useless, albeit quaint, problem solver for him personally. In Jim’s case, he needed his own car to get to and from his daily customer list. Jim was on his own timetable, not someone else’s.
But when the temporary ferry began running in the narrows, that solved a lot of headaches for Jim; however, taking this “slow boat to China” was not the best solution for him. Jim was always looking at the clock; time was money for Jim. And so time was and is money for many other working people just like Jim. Personally, I think that’s why public transportation solutions in Vermont and the North Country tend to sink like a fleet of lead balloons whenever tried.
Being in control: I think that’s why most local commuters between New York and Vermont are counting down the remaining weeks until the new Lake Champlain Bridge opens for traffic. While they appreciated the reliable, temporary ferry service during the construction phase, they were ultimately at the beck and call of faceless overseers. Now they are chomping at the bit to get some control back into their daily commuting lives. The bridge is their ticket to ride—again.
Honestly, all the planned spring 2012 fireworks, music, vendors, local power-player hobnobbing, and ribbon-cutting activities we’ve been hearing about sound fun, but they seem like they’ll be an anti-climax.
Progress on the bridge is rapid now and it looks like the span will finally open either late this month or in early November.
Like many commuters, I, too, suffer from “bridge fatigue”—too much news about the bridge. By this time, the news is getting old. So, it’s time to move on and get back to normal, as much as normal can be these days.
I have heard several people ask the question: “When do we get our bridge back?” The answer now appears to be “very soon, very soon”—at long last.