Lake Champlain bridge closure inspires book

CROWNPOINT, N.Y.-When the Lake Champlain Bridge linking Crown Point and Addison, Vt., closed in 2009, it was more than a structural failure. It was a human tragedy.

That's the premise of a book written by Crown Point author Jean Arleen Breed.

"The Loss of the Lake Champlain Bridge: A Traveler's Story" uses poetry and color photographs to chronicle the human story of those coping with the sudden loss of a vital link between New York State and Vermont.

"I never want to forget the impact this bridge closing had on thousands of people in the Champlain Valley," Breed said. "Lives changed, businesses struggled and people were tested.

"I never want to forget the courage and conviction of these people as they watched their businesses struggle to survive, their farms barely hang on and the worker commutes turn into this daily four-hour odyssey," she said. "This story tells about those people and what they did to defend their right to continue life as they knew it for the last 80 years. The bridge was built, a way of life was built around that bridge and then - suddenly - that bridge was gone and our entire valley was impacted."

The Lake Champlain Bridge was immediately closed in October 2009 when state transportation officials, without warning, declared it unsafe. The bridge served about 3,000 vehicles a day, meaning people who used the bridge daily to reach their jobs, health care facilities, grocery stores and other necessities were forced to take detours lasting up to four hours. The closing led to the closure of businesses on both sides of the lake and crippled tourism.

Breed was one those who used the bridge and was forced to drive the 100-mile detour.

"I never want to forget driving a thousand miles a week to work, getting in that long, dark line of cars at 4 on snowy winter mornings, seeing the ferry crew get out the life jackets on the little ferry because the ice had such a grip on all of us, spinning out my Jeep on icy roads and thanking God we didn't hit a phone pole or a tree and we could be here to drive another day," Breed said.

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