CROWN POINT - To residents of the northeastern New York and western Vermont, the construction of a new Lake Champlain Bridge is much more than a huge engineering project, top officials of the two states said this week as they conducted a ground-breaking ceremony for the span.
Gov. David Paterson said the event was a landmark in the lives of citizens from both states.
"This is an important step in reconnecting our two states and restoring this critical link for commerce, tourism, employment, education and medical services," he said.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas offered similar remarks.
"Those who live and work in the area surrounding the Lake Champlain Bridge share family, friends and business relationships on both sides of the lake," he said. "The ease and timeliness of transportation across Lake Champlain is critical to their way of life and economy."
Douglas and Paterson were among a roster of federal, state and local officials at the groundbreaking ceremony, held June 8 at the base of the former bridge in Crown Point.
Construction of a new $69.6 million bridge is to begin June 11. The Lake Champlain Bridge was closed last October because of safety concerns, and was demolished Dec. 28. A ferry service now links Crown Point and Addison, Vt.
The new structure, which has soaring spans that reflect the trend-setting arches of the former bridge, is expected to be completed in September 2011.
State Sen. Betty Little said the groundbreaking represented a turning point in area citizens' lives.
"Since the bridge's closure, our local communities, families and businesses have been managing through a sort of triage to deal with the loss of this vital link," she said. "Today marks the first step on the path to full recovery."
State Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and Vermont Rep. Diane Lanpher echoed those comments.