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Progress report on the new Champlain Bridge - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Progress report on the new Champlain Bridge

Port Henry, New York - August 3, 2011

Flatiron Construction accepted the contract it was given: 500 days to complete the bridge. Record flooding set workers back, and the company got an extension. It hopes to make up lost time, and now the bridge's arch will soon be on the move.

The final piece of the new Champlain Bridge can be seen while crossing on the ferry.

Sherry Morin of Port Henry said, "We go down regularly to see how they are doing."

Locals and tourists frequent the spot to check on the arch being assembled at the Velez Marine, or as it has come to be know "The Arch Yard" in Port Henry, N.Y.

Patrick Blaise of Westport added, "That is a pretty amazing piece of steel work."

The arch is well under way. The major work left is stringing support cables from the base to the top.

John Grady with the New York State Department of Transportation explained, "The workers are putting together the cable support systems. They have to be fabricated on site because they are so long. It is a bundle of cables inside a plastic jacket that will be used to support the bridge."

Once that is done the arch will be loaded on to two barges and tugboats will drag it two miles to the bridge site.  It will then be lifted into place.

Grady added, "There will be a lifting system of cables that will come off the new bridge on the ends of the approaches, and the entire structure will be lifted into place. And beams will be placed underneath it and it will be bolted into place."

This is no small feat. The arch itself is 402 feet long, about one and one-third football fields in length. It is 8 stories tall, just three stories shorter than Decker Towers in Burlington, reportedly Vermont's tallest building. The arch weighs 1.8 million pounds. But New York transportation officials say it can be done, and soon.

"We are looking somewhere near the end of the month we hope," Grady said.

High water marks on trees surrounding the worksite serve as a reminder of how flooded the marina was, putting crews out of work for two months. Contractors were granted a 65-day extension, and at this point cannot promise they will meet that Oct. 9 deadline.

Grady said, "Right now we are in conversations with the contractor to determine when we will actually have the bridge open. Those discussions are ongoing."

Some say they understand the delays and do not mind waiting a little longer.

Carole Collins of Westport explained, "Not really because we are watching the progress, and know it is happening. Sometime soon it is going. That will be good."

But others admit they are a little less patient.

"It has been a long two years. Lets keep our fingers crossed it actually happens."

Locals like Sherry Morin say they are planning celebrations for the original deadline of Oct. 9 and hope crews can catch up on lost time.

"It better be. I do not know what we are going to do about it," Morin said.

The 65 day extension means that Flatiron must finish the bridge by Dec. 19, or they will have to pay a $30,000 fine for every day they are late. Transportation reps say they have not set a date yet, but are hopeful to stay as close to the Oct. 9 as possible.

Molly Smith - WCAX News

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