Residents demand action on bridgeBy Gordon Dritschilo STAFF WRITER | October 28,2009THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The sudden closing of the bridge that crosses Lake Champlain from Addison to Crown Point, N.Y., has businesses on both sides laying off people, commuters howling and state officials ready to declare a state of emergency.ADDISON — A large crowd demanded that the state restore the corridor lost to the closure of the Champlain Bridge and accused state officials of bureaucratic foot-dragging Tuesday night.
About 150 people attended the informational meeting put on by the Vermont Agency of Transportation at the Addison Central School. The meeting, according to Secretary David Dill, was designed to bring people up to date as well as let them contribute ideas.
The bridge, already reduced to one lane for repairs, was closed due to safety concerns Oct. 16.
Underwater concrete, due for inspection next year, was found to have suddenly begun to rapidly deteriorate to a point that officials said they did not even consider the bridge safe for pedestrians.
The closure cut several Vermont businesses off from employees, customers, or both, forcing those who would have otherwise used the bridge to either take a 100-mile detour or wait in increasingly long lines for a ferry.
One woman at the meeting described, with a wavering voice, having been separated from her children.
The state announced several temporary measures late Monday, including free ferry and bus services.
Officials from Vermont and New York – the states own the bridge jointly and New York has primary responsibility for its upkeep – said they were looking at additional options such as temporary bridges and larger ferries, many at the meeting wanted to know why something more was not already in place.
"It's totally doable," said Dock Doctors owner Jeff Provost, who said at a meeting last week he had spoken with people who install such temporary bridges and ferries. "There's no excuse for it to be two weeks later and have nothing in place."
Several Addison business owners have said that they rely on the traffic from the bridge and since the bridge closed, their business has fallen off by as much as 80 percent. Several spoke at the Tuesday meeting, saying they would be out of business if the traffic were not restored quickly. They asked that at least one of the temporary measures be located as near as possible to the now-closed crossing, and soon.
"One thing we have seen tonight is a huge representation of bureaucracy," Provost said. "If you're representing us, do something for us and get us a back and forth across this lake."
Dill said even a temporary bridge, if practical, would take two or three months to get into place. He also said he was wary of putting such a structure too close to the existing bridge for fear of the existing bridge falling on it.
Several at the meeting questioned whether the bridge was worth repairing and asked about building a new one. Dill said that was one of the options under discussion. He said he expected building a new bridge would take at least 18 months.
A number of people threw out potential ferry locations. Dill said those were all recorded for consideration.MORE IN Local & StateA couple weeks ago I walked into a local bar and saw a young man who was clearly underage. Full Story
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