Westport 11/07/09

Westport Supervisor Dan Connell gave me an update recently on the Champlain Bridge situation that I'd like to pass on to you. There have been several meetings over the past couple of weeks, and it looks like a temporary solution is beginning to emerge from them.

The suggestion that Dan said is getting most play right now is to put two ice-breaker ferries into service at or near the site of the present bridge. The ferries would be large enough to handle high volumes of traffic and they would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It was interesting to hear Dan describe how this process unfolded, beginning with large public meetings first in Vermont, on Oct. 27, and then in New York, on Oct. 28. The New York meeting was held in the auditorium at Moriah Central, and it was very well attended-Dan estimated some 300 people came, filling the place. Dan said he heard many emotional stories from people about how the closure is affecting their lives, everything from economic woes to health-related troubles.

The meeting was run by the Commissioner of the New York State DOT, whose counterpart in Vermont had run the meeting there the previous day. At that meeting, people had objected strongly to the idea of a temporary bridge being put in further south. It was felt that the existing travel corridor should be used for whatever solution is found.

So by the time the meeting in Moriah was convened, any alternate location had been pretty much dropped from consideration. It was clear that the temporary solution had to originate from the location of the current bridge.

Also attending the Moriah meeting were the head engineer from the NYS DOT, representatives from the governor's office, and State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, along with a number of town supervisors and other concerned local officials.

At a follow-up meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors last Monday morning, Dan said it was decided that the supervisors of the four towns most directly impacted-Crown Point, Ticonderoga, Moriah, and Westport-would serve as liaison with state agencies in dealing with the situation.

So it looks like some good progress has been made in reestablishing this vital transportation link across the lake. I'll keep you posted on further progress in the weeks and months ahead. Meantime, we can all go on wondering how this embarrassing debacle was allowed to happen in the first place.

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