A signed detour now diverts motorists on U. S. Route 4 through Whitehall and on Vermont Routes 22A and 17, a distance of about 100 miles. Motorist can also use ferries in Ticonderoga and Essex, N.Y., although they have limited capacity and charge a fee.
Supervisors Dale French of Crown Point, Tom Scozzafava of Moriah and Bob Dedrick of Ticonderoga were all at the bridge Oct. 16 along with state Sen. Betty Little. All expressed disappointment the NYS DOT had allowed the bridge to reach this point.
"I've been saying it's unsafe for three years," French said. "No on would listen. Now we have an emergency."
Essex County has declared a state of emergency and the county board has asked the state to do the same. It's hoped the declarations will make federal emergency funds available for bridge repairs.
"A lot of people have built their lives around this bridge," Scozzafava said. "They live here because they have access to work, stores and health care across the bridge. Now, they don't."
Dedrick said the bridge closing will have a serious economic impact. He noted many people use the bridge to reach work and others to shop.
"People don't realize the financial impact this will have," Dedrick said. "Wal-Mart, Lowe's, International Paper - every business will be affected."
Little promised quick action by the state.
"If what the inspectors say is true about the condition of the bridge, a big tragedy may have been averted," the senator said. "Transportation officials told me the bridge needs to be shut down given the severe deterioration of two piers that were able to be inspected because the water level dropped.
"We need a plan to address this problem very quickly," Little said. "I was told that the piers can be repaired, but was not provided a timeline as to when it will happen. I will push for an answer."
Gov. David Paterson released a statement also calling for quick action.
"This emergency closure was necessary for the safety of those who use the bridge, and the action could not be delayed," he said. "I want to assure North Country residents that we are working as quickly as possible to re-open the bridge, as it is a critical passageway to and from Vermont.
"However, we will not in any way jeopardize the safety of those who use the bridge," Paterson said, "and the structural problems must be resolved to ensure that safety."