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New design favored for Champlain Bridge

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Posted on December 17, 2009 |
By John Flowers



web_bridgebig.jpg
THIS BRIDGE DESIGN was selected by the public and a citizen’s committee as their top choice from among six replacement options for the Champlain Bridge.

ADDISON — A modified, tied-arch bridge has emerged as the leading replacement design from among six conceptual options for a new Champlain Bridge.

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) officials unveiled those six design options at a series of public hearings in Ticonderoga, N.Y., last Saturday. The options included a using a long-span steel girder bridge; a segmental concrete bridge (cast-in-place or pre-cast); a steel composite cable-stayed bridge; a concrete extra-dosed bridge; or a network tied-arch bridge.

The Champlain Bridge Public Advisory Committee unanimously recommended the tied-arch bridge (see artist’s rendering at right) to Vermont and New York transportation authorities on Tuesday afternoon. That recommendation was largely based on the substantial support the design received through an on-line survey and paper-balloting at Saturday’s meetings. Rep. Diane Lanpher, a Vergennes Democrat and a member of the Public Advisory Committee, said 60 percent of the 3,652 on-line voters endorsed the tied-arch bridge design, while 90 percent of 450 people who showed up on Saturday supported it.

Lanpher said she believed the tied-arch option garnered the most support because it most resembles the current span and is easier and less costly to maintain than several of the other alternatives. Lanpher noted that while the federal government will pay for 80 percent of the costs for the new bridge, the states of New York and Vermont will be responsible for 100 percent of its maintenance.

The town of Addison and many other local communities and businesses have been hit hard since the Champlain Bridge closed on Oct. 16. The closure has sent hundreds of N.Y. state commuters on long detours or ferries to get to jobs at Goodrich, Middlebury College, Porter Medical Center, Country Home Products and other major Addison County employers.

With a preferred design now selected, engineers will draw up more detailed designs for a replacement span.

“My hope is that we see the next detailed (design) roll-out (in Vermont) in mid- to late January,” Lanpher said.

It’s a timetable that could produce a final bridge design in April of 2010, with construction commencing soon thereafter. Transportation officials said they hope to have the new bridge completed during the summer of 2011.

NYSDOT Project Manager Jim Boni said the estimated cost of the preferred bridge design is being placed at between $65 million and $90 million.

Supporters believe it would be money well spent.

“I think it fits into the area better than some of the other ones do,” West Addison General Store co-owner Dana Franklin said of the preferred tied-arch design. “I thought it was a futuristic version of the old bridge.”

While plans for a new bridge are progressing nicely, work continues on a new, temporary ferry to be established just south of the Champlain Bridge. Lanpher said it could be mid-January before the ferry begins operations, as some of the key parts needed for the docking infrastructure must be ordered out-of-state.

Authorities have yet to announce an official date for demolition of the current bridge, but an Idaho-based firm has been selected to do the job.

Details on the bridge demolition will be well advertised and safe public viewing locations will be determined, according to NYSDOT officials (watch addisonindependent.com for details once the date is announced). Safety protocols for contractors and for public viewing will be clearly posted in advance. The public will be prohibited from the area immediately surrounding the bridge, including the land, water and air. Access to certain roads also will be restricted to assure the safety of the public.

Photos of the proposed designs and an analysis for the bridge project can be reviewed at www.nysdot.gov/lakechamplainbridge/alternatives. In addition to providing feedback on the proposed design concepts, the public is being asked to submit ideas for methods of commemorating the 80-year-old bridge. Suggestions thus far have ranged from creating a permanent local museum display, to obtaining oral and written memories about the bridge from residents.

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