Construction finally wraps up on North Hero-Grand Isle drawbridge project

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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NORTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) - After nearly five years of delays and construction, the North Hero-Grand Isle drawbridge is finally done, much to the delight of drivers and boaters. The bridge provides the only access point for large sailboats between the eastern and western sections of Lake Champlain.

“I boat here. It’s a perfect place on the lake as far as I’m concerned because it makes it easy to go back and forth between the broad lake to the inland lake,” said Trevor Squirrell, a boater and a representative in the Vermont House.

Squirrell keeps his boat at the marina closest to the bridge. He’s happy the construction is done.

“I was out with the boat the other day and it’s nice to go back and forth underneath the bride with two-way traffic instead of the one-way traffic which was always somewhat problematic because you can’t see around the corner and see the other boats and things like that,” Squirrell said.

Altogether, the project cost $74 million, with the federal government footing 85% of the bill. The project ended up coming in millions over the original costs and it took longer, too.

“The original bid price on this was a little over $60 million, and because of COVID and the finding of contaminated materials, it delayed the project a good full year. Now, the project is looking at about $74 million for a total construction cost,” Project Manager Todd Sumner said.

Per U.S. Coast Guard regulations, a drawbridge is required here to maintain unrestricted vertical access to the east and west side of the lake for all boats and especially sailboats.

“Overall, it’s been a huge improvement from the old bridge. Everyone from the road users-- who don’t have to wait as long, who don’t have to risk the bridge getting jammed-- to the boat traffic to everyone is going to be benefited greatly from this project,” said Phil Harrington, an engineer with the Vermont Transportation Agency.

Altogether, the bridge used 7,000 yards of concrete and 15,000 bolts to come together. It’s not just cars and boats, but cyclists will no longer need to ride on the old slippery pavement of the previous bridge built during the 1950s.

“This new structure, we’ve increased the shoulder width so bikes have got more space to bike in and it’s got a concrete deck so it’s a much safer riding surface,” Sumner said.

The bridge is available to go up and down twice an hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day when boats are waiting.

They expect this bridge to last a century with normal upkeep.