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Officials call for immediate reaction to bridge closure

CROWN POINT - State legislators and town supervisors are calling for the construction of a temporary pontoon bridge across Lake Champlain and a Gubernatorial emergency declaration following the Oct. 16 closure of the Crown Point Bridge.

But state officials remain non-committal.

The Crown Point Bridge - which allows 4,000 cars a day to travel between New York and Vermont - was closed last Friday after state Department of Transportation officials discovered inclined cracks in the supporting piers.

Town supervisors and state legislators have labeled the bridge closure an emergency that threatens the local economy. Officials say hundreds face job loss if a solution is not found.

For state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, only one course of action will salvage the economies of the surrounding communities, but the state may have other ideas in mind.

"I can tell you what we think the solution is," Sayward said. "That's a temporary bridge."

Following a closed-door meeting with officials from numerous state agencies Monday, state Senator Betty Little said that she is currently imploring Governor David Paterson to declare Essex County in a state of emergency.

But getting that designation has proven tricky.

"They are looking at what the impact is. They don't need an emergency declaration to repair the current bridge," Little said. "They are waiting to see the impact and we have seen that. A woman who needed chemo waited three hours for the ferry."

On Monday morning, the Essex County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed a resolution urging the governors of both states to declare the bridge closing an emergency.

Supervisors repeatedly hammered the state for years of inaction as the bridge deteriorated, while continually reiterating the importance the bridge plays in the lives of local residents.

According to Essex County Transportation Coordinator Nancy Dougal, between 1,000 and 1,500 Essex County residents are employed in Vermont and cross the bridge daily.

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