Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Lake Champlain Bridge: A Year Later

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee and Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary David Dill marked the one year anniversary of the Lake Champlain Bridge closure on Saturday. The temporary ferry service is still in place providing round-the-clock transportation across the lake at no cost to passengers, and the underwater structures for the new bridge are nearly completed.

Following the bridge’s closure, New York and Vermont officials held a series of public meetings to gather feedback and solicit input from residents and business owners on both sides of the lake. The states then settled on a brand new Lake Champlain Bridge design at the same location (shown above).

The original Lake Champlain Bridge was among the first to use a steel truss outside of railroad bridges according to Ted Zoli, a 2009 winner of a MacArthur fellowship, who led the team designing the new bridge.

The original 2,184-ft-long truss linking Crown Point and West Addison, Vermont, completed in 1930, was a continuous (rather than segmented) truss bridge with maximum room for steamships to pass beneath. Charles M. Spofford, the orginal bridge’s designer was awarded a gold medal by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his work on the bridge, “hundreds of continuous truss bridges were built; it ushered in a whole new typology of bridge engineering,” Zoli told Adirondack Almanack contributor Anthony Hall back in January.

Water and ice took a toll and cracking in the bridge’s support piers prompted the closure and, if left untreated, could have led to structural failure and possible collapse, putting motorists and pedestrians in serious danger. By immediately closing the bridge, New York and Vermont officials say they ensured the safety of the traveling public.

“We’re not here designing a new bridge because of some flaws in the truss, but because of the piers,” Zoli said in January. “Spofford used concrete containing tailings from local iron ore mines. When he tested the concrete at MIT, we surmise that he found it to be twice as strong as conventional concrete and concluded that the piers wouldn’t require steel re-enforcement.”

In December Zoli unveiled designs for six possible bridges, The public’s favorite, a Modified Network Tied Arch Bridge, was chosen as the final design. The new bridge is expected to be safer, and also be wider, with six-foot shoulders for bicycles and a sidewalk for pedestrians.

The original Lake Champlain Bridge was demolished on December 28, 2009 and the temporary ferry, carrying motorists across Lake Champlain every 15 minutes, opened in January of 2010.

Construction on the new bridge began in June and is on schedule, according to state officials, with construction of bridge abutments and piers under way. Fabrication of the steel bridge members is progressing off-site. The project is expected to be completed as scheduled, next September.

 

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