At the crack of dawn, dozens gathered along the shores of Lake Champlain.
"To watch this historic event," said Kathy Fortier of Crown Point, N.Y.
The center arch of the Champlain Bridge that will once again connect Vermont and New York floated to its final destination. It was placed on two barges, and with the help of four tugboats, the 402-foot long, 83-foot tall steel arch traveled 2 miles from the construction site in Port Henry. The moving process took about two hours.
"It looked so simple actually," said Tim Kolodzey of Port Henry, N.Y.
By coincidence, it was 82 years ago to the day that the original Champlain Bridge opened.
"My father put me in his new car, we hustled everybody else to get here fast," recalled Gerry Abbott of Ticonderoga, N.Y.
Gerry Abbott was 8 years old that day.
"It was a very nice, sunny day and packed with people. There was music playing and the whole bit," Abbott said. "Today is very similar to it, everybody is taking pictures."
By early afternoon, hundreds had gathered to watch the 1.8 million pound arch be raised 60 feet out of the water; a slow and precise process using a strand jack and moving at just 10 feet an hour.
"There are 32 strands on the ends of the bridge, 32 strand cables," explained John Grady of the New York Department of Transportation. "Basically there is a lock on the top, and a lock on the bottom, the cables go through a hydraulic ram, the top locks, the bottom locks, and the ram pushes up, pushing the bridge, and then you lock the bottom lock, drop the ram, lock the top, unlock the bottom and do it again. And we just keep cycling until the bridge is all the way up."
"It's been very slow, but very interesting." said Alice Vilardo of Ticonderoga, N.Y. "Everybody is kind of talking about, they have little points on the bridge where they see it, now they see the flag hanging or they see so many rungs on the crane."
When the arch is in place, the bridge still won't be ready to open. A number of smaller projects like pouring concrete, building sidewalks and electrical work will need to be done. When the bridge will open to vehicular traffic remains a question mark. The original date of Oct. 9 is no longer the target date.
"We are confident now that this final phase we'll get this done this year, how much later this year has yet to be determined," said Stan Gee of the New York Department of Transportation.
The arch will be bolted down before Hurricane Irene arrives, so officials say the storm should not pose any danger to the bridge.
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