PORT HENRY - The Lake Champlain Bridge in Crown Point will not re-open until late spring or early summer of 2010.
"I have to be honest, that's the earliest we can hope," Robert Dennison, New York State Department of Transportation chief engineer, said. "That's assuming we don't find things that complicate the process."
Dennison made his remarks to an overflow crowd at Moriah Central School Oct. 28 during a public information meeting on the bridge.
The bridge, which serves about 4,000 vehicles a day, links New York and Vermont. It was closed Oct. 16 when an inspection found its concrete piers had disintegrated.
The bridge is jointly owned by the states of New York and Vermont, although New York DOT is responsible for its maintenance.
The bridge, built in 1929, has been the site of repair work since mid-summer. Plans were being made to replace the bridge in 2013.
There was no alternative to closing the bridge, Dennison said.
"It was simply too risky," he said. "We found this bridge could collapse under its own weight."
Dennison said DOT has a tentative plan for repairing the span. He said dams will be constructed around each pier and water pumped out from around them. The concrete piers will then be reinforced with steel and encased in more concrete. Bearings on the bridge deck will then be replaced.
The work will be complicated by winter weather and the threat posed by the bridge.
"We're concerned the bridge could fall on our workers," Dennison said. "It's in that bad of shape."
To help commuters who rely on the bridge, New York DOT and the Vermont Agency of Transportation are investigating alternative routes for motorists.
New York DOT is studying a possible temporary bridge. A pontoon, or floating, bridge is not a viable option, Dennison said, because it can't handle more than one vehicle at a time and won't work in ice. A "fixed" bridge is possible, he said, although a suitable location has yet to be found.