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Bridge construction progressing

CROWN POINT - The new Champlain Bridge linking New York and Vermont should be open to traffic next August.

That was the assessment of state transportation officials and the project contractor, who provided a construction update Nov. 19.

Bridge contractor Flatiron Construction of Colorado will work through the winter on the $70 million bridge, according to New York DOT Regional Engineer John Grady.

Flatiron's contract gives it 500 days to have the bridge open for traffic, which works out to Oct. 9, 2011. Flatiron officials said they hoped to finish in August, in order to receive financial incentives offered by the contract.

Grady used charts and photographs to show the project's progress since it began in May.

The engineer said the project has encounter difficulties drilling the six-foot-diameter shafts for the bridge support piers. The shafts are drilled into the bedrock under the lake bed, Grady said.

Six of the seven concrete piers that will support the bridge require a total of 32 shafts drilled in the lake.

He said that on Nov. 19 they finally drilled out the 32nd and last shaft.

Flatiron Project Manager Mark Mallett said his company is operating two shifts at the bridge, Monday morning through Saturday night.

Grady said now that the shafts are done, construction will start to pick up.

"The next stage is setting steel," he said. "We'll be able to set the approaches to the arch. The concrete deck is the last stage."

The first steel pieces should arrive from a Lancaster, Pa., fabricating plant in early December, Flatiron Construction Manager Phil LaFave said.

The bridge, which will connect Crown Point with Chimney Point, Vt., replaces an 80-year-old bridge closed due to severe pier erosion in October 2009 and later destroyed by controlled explosives.

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