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Vermont, New York make Champlain Bridge repair plans

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Posted on June 22, 2009 |
By John Flowers



ADDISON — Vermont and New York officials have signed an agreement spelling out each state’s responsibilities in the upcoming replacement or rehabilitation of the Champlain Bridge, tentatively slated for 2013.

Early estimates place the massive project’s cost at $40 million to $50 million. The federal government is expected to pay 80 percent of the total tab, with Vermont and New York each picking up 10 percent. Vermont, through its state bridges capital fund, has budgeted $5.8 million for its share of the Champlain Bridge project, according to information provided by Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, a member of the House Transportation Committee.

The Champlain Bridge — which links Addison, Vt., with Crown Point, N.Y., across Lake Champlain — is one of six Addison County-based state bridges that appear on the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s priority list.

The Champlain Bridge opened to traffic on Aug. 26, 1929. At 2,186 feet long and 32 feet wide, the concrete and steel truss structure was an ambitious project for its day, erected at a cost of $870,000.

But the massive span is showing signs of major corrosion and disrepair, prompting New York and Vermont transportation officials to push for its rehab or replacement.

Some environmental and historic preservation groups have already begun lobbying for the bridge to be repaired, rather than replaced. Others believe the current span would be tough to salvage.

The extent of the project will become clearer during the coming months.
Jim Boni, project manager for the New York Department of Transportation, told the Addison Independent last week that the consulting firm of HNTB Corp. out of New York City has been hired to scope out the project. The consultant will take a comprehensive look at the Champlain Bridge and, with public input, lay out options to solve its deficiencies. Boni said $1.8 million has been budgeted for that process.

“At the end of the scoping process, the consultant will present documents outlining alternatives we can look at,” Boni said. “Once we are done with the scoping, we will narrow it down to a select number of alternatives, and go from there.”

Dan Landry, project manager with the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s structures division, said the project alternatives will likely include a “no-build” scenario, rehabbing it, replacing the bridge at its present location, replacing it on a new alignment, or even scrapping the plan in favor of ferry boats.

“No alternative is going to be overlooked,” said Landry, who stressed Vermonters and New Yorkers will have many opportunities throughout the process to weigh in with their suggestions and opinions.

The state’s individual responsibilities are spelled out in the bi-state agreement, recently signed by Vermont Gov. James Douglas and his counterpart in New York, David Paterson.

“The bi-state agreement commits the two states all the way through construction,” Boni said.

Each state will be responsible for their respective environmental/construction permits. New York state will take the lead in the construction phase. The states will work to resolve any differences of opinion on individual phases of the project.

“We would always try to reach an agreement,” Landry said. “One state cannot trump the other state.”

Joining the Champlain Bridge on the Vermont’s “bridge priority list” are:

• The one-lane, signalized span on Route 116 in Bristol. Plans call for that span to be replaced with a wider version at an estimated cost of $9.2 million in 2014.

• The Lemon Fair Bridge on Route 125 in Cornwall, a project currently estimated at $6.1 million that is being targeted for 2012.

• The railroad overpass bridge on Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury. It’s a project estimated at $1.2 million, slated to begin after the Cross Street Bridge is completed in 2011.

• The Route 17 culvert near Chimney Point in Addison, a project expected to cost $645,000 and no timetable for completion.

• The Sand Hill Bridge on Route 125 in East Middlebury. The fiscal year 2010 transportation budget includes $15,000 in development and engineering expenses associated with the project. No construction date has been assigned at this point.

Lanpher said the fiscal year 2010 transportation budget includes roughly $2.77 million toward the state bridge projects listed above — that’s about 8.2 percent of the total state bridge budget of $33.8 million.

These same bridges are budgeted for a total commitment of $22,960,000 over several years of construction, she noted.

There are additional state bridges in Addison County that are on the state’s repair/replacement radar screen, but no funds or timetable have been assigned. They include the railroad overpass on Main Street in Middlebury; Bridge No. 8 on Route 17 near the Weybridge/New Haven town line; and Bridge No. 15 on Route 125 in Ripton.

While Lanpher said it’s good to see some progress in dealing with some of the deteriorating state bridges, she fears the total of nine Addison County spans listed only represents the tip of the iceberg, in terms of work that should be done. She noted there are 132 state bridges in Addison County.

“I personally would like to know how many of the 132 state bridges in Addison County need work, not just what we can manage,” she said.

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