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New Lake Champlain Bridge Work Progresses

Mon October 24, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Mary S. Yamin-Garone

On Aug. 26 the link between New York and Vermont got a little stronger as the center arch span for the new Lake Champlain Bridge was lifted into place. The 402-ft. (122.5 m), 1.8 million lb. (816,466 kg) arch is the last major section of the 2,100 ft long (640.1 m) bridge to be installed.

Constructed at a Port Henry marina on the lake’s western shore, the arch was transported via two barges. It took nearly five hours to raise it into position with pairs of cable hoists that were mounted on both ends of the unfinished bridge.

With the center span lifted and secured into its ultimate position, work to complete the concrete deck, install bridge rail and pedestrian fence and make finishing touches to the bridge’s lighting system are continuing.

Precast concrete panels are being used for the roadway surface and the sidewalks —which will be outside the arch — in order to speed up the deck construction. Precast panels also will allow the bridge to open sooner than if a traditional cast-in-place deck was used. This is because the panels were fully cured when the arch was assembled. The panels will be staged on barges, lifted by crane to one end of the arch and moved into position with rollers. Once installed, the panels will be post-tensioned to keep them securely attached to each other. Next a series of “closure pours” will close any empty spaces between the precast panels and the cast-in-place decks on the approaches.

When the deck is finished, the curbing, railings and pedestrian fencing will be installed. Rail will be placed on both sides of the roadway and fencing will be put on the bridge’s outermost limits. The lighting system also will be completed. The bridge will feature standard navigation lighting, lighting within the pedestrian fence handrail and aesthetic lighting highlighting the arch’s features.

New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials originally anticipated an early October 2011 opening. Due to spring flooding along the Lake Champlain shoreline and construction delays, however, it will be another six to eight weeks before the bridge reopens to traffic.

A Look Back

The 2,184-ft.-long (665.7 m) Lake Champlain Bridge has been closed since Oct. 16, 2009, when engineers repairing the span’s upper portion noticed an exposed crack in one of the previously submerged piers. It was determined that from 2005 to 2008 an inexplicable 14 in. (35.6 cm) of additional deterioration had occurred making the bridge unsafe and unstable. The DOT’s inspection schedule previously showed underwater deterioration at the rate of roughly an inch every 5 years for about 20 years since New York and Vermont took control of the bridge.

On Dec. 28, 2009, thousands watched in person, via the Internet and on television, as New York blasting subcontractor Advanced Explosives Demolition (AED) used nearly 500 preset, high-tech, linear shaped explosive charges to cut through the steel at 17,000 ft. (518.2 m) per second, causing the 80-year-old span to implode in less than 10 seconds.

Less than one month after the demolition, the Modified Network Tied Arch Bridge design was chosen and Flatiron Construction Corporation was awarded the contract. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 11, 2010 and the first steel girder was set into position on Jan. 27, 2011.

Nearly 3,500 vehicles traveled the bridge daily. In an effort to bring some of the local traffic back to the communities, an interim vehicular ferry terminal was constructed. The project involved building access roads to the lake, constructing in-lake docks and studying dredging techniques. The ferry operates 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, crossing just south of the former site of the Lake Champlain Bridge. There is no charge to ride.

Facts About the Bridge

The Lake Champlain Bridge (a/k/a/ Crown Point Bridge) originally was designed by the Boston engineering firm of Fay, Spofford and Thorndike. Two construction contracts were awarded: a $385,000 substructure contract went to Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation of New York City; and a $535,177 superstructure contract went to The American Bridge Company of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Bridge construction began on June 14, 1928. Total cost, including land, materials and engineering services, was $1,149,032.

Other facts about the Champlain Bridge include:

• It opened to traffic on Aug. 26, 1929, after a ribbon cutting ceremony on the bridge by New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Vermont Governor John E. Weeks.

• Toll collection began on Aug. 27, 1929.

• Original bridge tolls were $1 for cars, $1-$2 for trucks, $3 for buses, 25 cents for pedestrians and 50 cents for horse-drawn vehicles.

• The bridge was owned and operated by the Lake Champlain Bridge Commission from 1929 to 1987.

• The Lake Champlain Bridge Commission was abolished in 1987 and ownership was transferred to the States of New York and Vermont.

• Upon the dissolution of the Bridge Commission tolls were eliminated and NYSDOT assumed maintenance responsibility. CEG

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