SWANTON, VT (AP) Work is expected to start in March on the $40 million Missisquoi Bay Bridge reconstruction project.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation will advertise for bids from contractors toward the middle of this month, and construction stakes are posted at the site, said project manager Dan Landry.
"We’re so close right now, you can’t believe it," Landry said.
The new bridge between Swanton and Alburg will be 3,600 ft. (1,097 m) long and supported by 20 piers. It will be the largest span entirely within Vermont.
The reconstruction is scheduled for completion in 2007, but traffic could begin to cross it as early as 2006.
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources originally required construction on the bridge to take place between May 1 and Sept. 30, so that workers would not disturb a population of Eastern spiny soft-shelled turtles that use the Route 78 bridge causeway as a basking and wintering site.
The turtles are a threatened species in Vermont. They inhabit the bed of rock and earth leading up to the actual bridge span.
A five-person turtle monitoring team made daily observations of man-made basking platforms last year. The team found the turtles were basking in the area until the end of October and then congregating near the hibernation spot under the bridge.
Based on that observation, the researchers said work could be performed until Oct. 31, a month longer than originally listed in project permits.
"This gives us a good chance to finish a substantial amount of work in one year," Landry said.
Before construction begins, the Agency of Transportation must sign an agreement with New England Central Railroad and Canadian National Railroad that would permit work on a rail crossing at the bridge. Canadian National owns the tracks; New England Central uses them.
The District 6 Environmental Commission granted an Act 250 permit for the project last September. Work was supposed to start that fall, but negotiations for right-of-way purchases with nearby landowners put the project slightly behind schedule.
Right-of-way compensation has been settled, Landry said.