The Lake Champlain Bridge is a continuous steel truss bridge that opened in 1929, linking Chimney Point, VT and Crown Point, NY, serving as the gateway to New England or to the Adirondacks. The engineers Fay, Spofford, and Thorndike set the location in an especially scenic and historic pass over the water and the land. For the past 80 years the bridge has connected the livelihoods of many New Yorkers and Vermonters, has served tourism, and has provided a beautiful, landmark example of engineering.
In July 2009 the bridge was shut down to one lane of traffic at a time as repairs were conducted on the other side. On October 16, 2009 the bridge was closed indefinitely. On November 9, 2009, the engineering report suggested the bridge be demolished. Why? In a nutshell, the engineers found the deterioration of concrete piers to be unpredictable and potentially disastrous. Rehabilitation would be more expensive than replacement. For the long version of this see the news and reports from NYSDOT’s Lake Champlain Bridge webpage.
However, ethically and legally there is more to the issue than just an engineering report. This bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a National Historic Landmark nomination on the table. Take in the federal laws of Section 106, 110, and 4(f) and all options must be analyzed and exhausted; because a historic resource is involved a bridge cannot just be slapped in place. This gives the pro-rehabilitation candidates more weight than just passion. (I won’t get into the preservation laws at this point, but this issue is a topic for my preservation policy class, so I will at a later date.)
What is the fate of the bridge? We don’t know yet. It is more complicated than other bridges because it is jointly owned by New York and Vermont. The communities on either side have had to rely on ferry service across the lake, which will last only as long as the unusually warm weather remains. Lives are inconvenienced and businesses are shutting down as a result of the loss of this main thoroughfare. This has been in the Vermont/upstate New York news for months now, and there is no shortage of articles and opinions.
Stay tuned for more information and discussion. Any if you’re familiar with the old General Sullivan Bridge in New Hampshire, it is the twin of this bridge. It has been closed since the mid 1980s. That itself adds additional levels pf conversation, huh?