CROWN POINT - State officials are promising to open the Lake Champlain Bridge as soon as possible, but local commuters are demanding to know when that will happen.
"Frantic calls to DOT produced a cheery voice offering to give detour directions," Barbara Brassard, Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said. "What they didn't mention is that these detours were around two hours long.
"The enormous impact on the Lake Champlain region is obvious," she said. "What is New York State doing? Nothing!"
Todd Hoffman, New York State Department of Transportation regional structural engineer, disagreed. He said engineers are studying the bridge and formulating a plan to repair and re-open it. That plan should be in place in about two weeks.
"We're not going to rush just to get the bridge open," he said. "We're going to work diligently to make the bridge as safe as possible. Safety is our top priority."
The bridge, which serves about 4,000 vehicles a day, links New York and Vermont. It was closed Oct. 16 when an inspection found as much as 30 percent of its concrete piers had disintegrated.
"We were afraid the bridge could fail abruptly," Hoffman said.
The bridge is jointly owned by the states of New York and Vermont, although New York DOT is responsible for its maintenance.
"It's important to remember safety is our highest concern," John Zicconi, Vermont Department of Transportation spokesman, said. "We realize the inconvenience this poses to many people, but we can't risk lives for the sake of convenience."
The bridge, built in 1929, has been the site of repair work since mid-summer. Plans are being made to replace the bridge in 2013.
Hoffman explained that low water allowed crews making repairs on the bridge to inspect concrete piers Oct. 16. They immediately alerted DOT officials of deteriorating conditions.