Editorial: New bridge, new opportunities

After Monday morning’s demolition, the Champlain Bridge is history. It’s time for a few more hours of romanticized reflection, then a redoubling of efforts to build a new bridge in record time that will make the trip over the lake better in every way. That, at least, should be the goal.Just how could the new bridge serve the public better? Here are a few key ways, some of which have been previously suggested by readers, and are being tentatively considered by state officials:• Foremost, the span absolutely must be wide enough to accommodate bicycle riders on both sides. The Lake Champlain corridor is an outstanding resource as a biking destination, attracting travelers who spend freely on rooms and meals and in retail stores, while leaving very little impact on the area. Creating marked bike lanes on the new bridge should be a priority that is easily achieved.• Pedestrians are naturally drawn to bridges as well. Give them the opportunity for a special view or a unique perspective of the lake, and they’ll treat the bridge as a mini-adventure. Taking a page from the Golden Gate Bridge or any number of other impressive spans, a pedestrian platform at the midway point of the bridge would encourage thousands of people each year to take a quick walk and enjoy a spectacular view. A raised sidewalk has been mentioned as a possible feature of the new bridge, but there has been little public comment of it.• If possible, a small parking area on the Vermont side of the bridge could be the launch point for pedestrians wanting to walk the bridge as well as double as an easily accessible tourist information center. Vermont has too few and the location is ideal for welcoming visitors and touting Vermont’s impressive assets. The Chimney Point State Historic Site could be modified to meet this demand, which would require a way for pedestrians to safely access the bridge and a more visible entry/exit onto and off of the revised roadway. The new bridge’s aesthetics have already captured the public’s interest and input, but equally as important is how well the bridge serves the community. Because it’s still in the early design stages (final design is expected to be this April), hopefully there’s time to do more than replace the bridge: hopefully, new ideas can make the new bridge that much better. And while we’re dreaming, wouldn’t it be wonderful to think it could be completed months ahead of schedule and under budget? If that were the goal, it might just happen. If it isn’t, you can bet it won’t.

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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