Cars crisscrossing the new Champlain Bridge Tuesday were a sight to celebrate for businesses that have depended on the traffic between Vermont and New York for years.
"We're one community and we depend on each other and that was proved in the two years we did not have that link, and like I said the ferry was good but it was not good enough," said Lorraine Franklin of the West Addison General Store.
When the old Champlain Bridge was shut down and replaced with a ferry service between the Green Mountain and Empire states two years ago, some businesses did not survive the dip in traffic that came with it. Three-thousand cars crossed the bridge each day; about 2,400 used the ferry.
"There were various reason people told us that they didn't take the ferry and we have not seen customers until today because they did not take the ferry at all and had always said they would not be back until the bridge is back," Franklin said.
At the West Addison General Store, the switch from commuting by road to water slashed revenues by 25 percent. Many customers just stopped making the trip. Others, like Linda Hemingway and her husband from Pottersville, N.Y., found themselves doing it less often.
"For us it was an inconvenience of getting from where we lived in New York to New Hampshire. We had to wait for the ferry, go across, get off, debark, that way," Linda Hemingway said.
Companies that do business on both sides of the bridge are also celebrating. Owners say the new structure is helping them reach customers in ways the ferry could not.
"When the bridge closed, we changed direction. We knew that we couldn't target those folks due to the added expense of being over there, and time wise and things like that," said Mike Shannon of Rainbow Acres Landscaping.
Now, Vermont landscaper Mike Shannon has his eye on bringing his business to New York. And back at the general store, where layoffs were made to make up for the drop in business, the hope is that the new bridge will help restore old business.
"We do expect things to be back to normal, we don't expect it to be overnight, we don't expect it to be way above what we were, we just expect to get our level back and we would be happy with that," Franklin said.
Businesses on both sides of the bridge are working together to mark the bridge's opening. A weekend-long celebration is being planned for May.
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