MIDDLEBURY — About three years after the old Champlain Bridge was closed due to safety concerns, workers will soon begin the final phase of work on the new Lake Champlain Bridge project.
That work will involve upgrades to property on the Vermont side of the span to include construction of a new boat launch, two gravel parking lots and walking paths with interpretive signs.
The 80-year-old Champlain Bridge was closed on Oct. 16, 2009, and imploded two and a half months later. The new, state-of-the-art span was built in its place, and it was put into use last Nov. 7 amid much fanfare.
Dan Landry, structures project manager for the Vermont Department of Transportation, confirmed on Monday that Carmel, N.Y.-based Peckham Road Corp. had submitted the lowest ($853,954) of seven bids from companies interested in performing the work, designed to restore and improve land at the West Addison entrance of the bridge.
That land was disturbed back in the fall of 2009 after authorities closed the Champlain Bridge when an inspection revealed it to be structurally unsafe. State and federal authorities decided the bridge needed to be replaced, which in the short term led to construction of a temporary ferry adjacent to the former span that linked West Addison with Crown Point, N.Y., across Lake Champlain.
Workers put in road approaches and ferry landings on both sides of the lake. Historic preservation officials conducted digs in an effort to preserve important artifacts that were at risk of being destroyed with the ferry and bridge work.
The project, Landry explained, was carved into several pieces, with the federal government paying 80 percent of the tab and the states of Vermont and New York each paying 10 percent. Those project “pieces” included the temporary ferry system, implosion of the bridge, construction of the new one (at a cost of more than $83 million) and now the final element: restoration of the sites (and related approach work) on both sides of the bridge.
“When the bridge opened I think some people thought that was the end of the project,” said Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes. “But there is more work to finish.”
Lanpher, a member of the House Transportation Committee, was pleased to report that the low bid of $853,954 is significantly less than the $1.2 million price tag that had been forecast. Major features of the project include:
• A new handicap-accessible boat ramp that will be much wider than the previous one and that will be served by a graveled parking lot.
• New fencing around the parking area.
• A series of gravel paths that will feature interpretive signs. Those signs will include information about the former Champlain Bridge that was erected in 1929. Lanpher is requesting that the trails be named after the late Carl Reidel, a former Ferrisburgh resident, state representative and patriarch of the University of Vermont’s Environmental Studies program.
• A small amphitheater that will be used for, among other things, lectures about the rich history of the region.
• An additional parking area for visitors and recreation enthusiasts.
• New landscaping, to include some apple trees.
• Removal of the temporary ferry access road, reshaping of the Chimney Point driveway and resurfacing of more than four-tenths of a mile of Route 125 leading up to the bridge.
“It will really be a nice improvement to the area,” Landry said of the plan, drawn up by David Raphael of Middlebury-based LandWorks.
Landry said Peckham Road Corp. has until June 30 of next year to complete the project. A pre-construction meeting will soon be held to iron out expectations for the work, at which time Peckham can get started.
“We are likely to see at least equipment at the site this fall,” Landry said.
The Addison Independent reached out to New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) officials to get details on site improvements to the Crown Point side of the bridge, as well as to respond to reports that some of the lights designed to illuminate the massive span are still not in working order. NYSDOT was the lead agency in planning the Champlain Bridge project.
An e-mail and multiple phone calls went unreturned by NYSDOT spokeswoman Carol Breen as the Independent went to press on Wednesday.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]