CROWN POINT - Ferry service is now operating near the site of the former Lake Champlain Bridge.
New York Gov. David Paterson visited the site Jan. 24 to announce the service and issue an apology.
"I want to apologize to those on both sides of the lake for this situation," he said. "This has been more than a loss of a bridge. It's the loss of a way of life for the last eight decades."
Paterson said the Crown Point ferry will help bring normalcy to the local residents, but he vowed to press forward on the construction of a new span.
"Only a new bridge will restore economic development and give a new quality of life to those who live and work on the shores of Lake Champlain," the governor said.
The Lake Champlain Bridge, which connects Crown Point and Chimney Point, Vt., closed Oct. 16 when engineers deemed it structurally unsafe. Opened in 1929, it was demolished Dec. 21 to make way for a new bridge, which is expected to be completed by summer 2011.
More than 4,000 vehicles a day used the bridge.
"The free ferry service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the new bridge opens," Paterson said.
The ferry will accommodate 50 cars each trip and will be operated by the Lake Champlain Ferry Transportation Co.
The press conference featured remarks by Paterson, Gee, New York State Sen. Betty Little, New York Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary David Dill and Vermont Rep. Diane Lanpher.
Each took a turn thanking commuters for their patience and praising each other - particularly Paterson - for reacting to the situation so quickly.
"The bridge closure has turned lives upside down," Little said. "Things won't return to normal until the new bridge is built and opened, but today marks a significant step forward to help commuters, families, farmers, businesses and others who have been enduring a very difficult situation since Oct. 16. Working with Gov. Paterson, administration officials and state and local representatives, I look forward to seeing quick progress on building a new bridge. I do want to take this opportunity that recognize and thank the workers who have put in the long hours of tough work to make this ferry service possible." Sayward said, "I am very pleased with this ferry becoming operational, and thank Gov. Paterson and the Department of Transportation, as well as Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, for their efforts on returning this vital inter-state lifeline. This is a huge step to alleviate the travel burdens for local communities in New York and Vermont, and I look forward to working with the governor to ensure that a permanent bridge is in place as soon as possible."