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Local leaders express concern about bridge

CROWN POINT - When Crown Point Supervisor Dale French attends the next Champlain Bridge advisory committee meeting later this month, he'll have a simple message - let's hustle.

"It's like the project isn't important to anyone but us," French said. "It's frustrating that we can't get any action."

The aging Champlain Bridge that connects Crown Point with Vermont will be renovated or replaced beginning in 2013.

That's not soon enough for French and other local leaders who believe the project will miss out on federal stimulus money now being made available for such work.

"We have a lot of people who depend on that bridge to get to and from work every day, farmers who have cattle on both sides of the lake, people who go to Vermont for medical appointments and shopping," French said. "We need that bridge."

Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava agrees.

"The Lake Champlain bridge is critical to our community," he said. "We have a large number of people who depend on that bridge every day.

"There are billions of dollars available for infrastructure projects and that bridge sits there," Scozzafava said. "I can't believe two states, two governors and four U.S. senators can't find away to fix that bridge."

The New York State Department of Transportation announced in June it had reached an agreement with the Vermont Agency of Transportation on a $50.1 million Champlain Bridge project. Construction is tentatively planned for 2013.

That's too late, French and Scozzafava agree.

"When you have billions in stimulus money available and a bridge in terrible condition, it's a no-brainer," Scozzafava said. "We need to act now."

The bridge is owned by both New York and Vermont, although New York has been entrusted with the bridge's maintenance. Under a prior agreement, the two states will share the cost of rehabilitation or replacement.

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