CROWN POINT - Ferry service will begin at the site of demolished Lake Champlain Bridge Sunday.
Gov. David Paterson made the announcement today at a press conference near the ferry landing in Crown Point.
"The free ferry service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the new bridge opens," Paterson said.
When a member of the press questioned the governor, noting the work still to be done at the ferry landing. Paterson took issue.
"Look again," he demanded.
Stanley Gee, acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, confirmed the ferry will be operational beginning Sunday.
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.
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 closure of the bridge has had a devastating affect on the businesses and families of the region," Paterson said. "We've worked day after day to mitigate the circumstances surrounding the closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge."
The governor outlined the steps taken by New York State government, which arranged for public transportation and set up an economic assistance program for businesses. But none of those steps are enough, he said, for commuters forced to drive an extra 100 miles to and from work and appointments.
"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.