Bridge celebration postponed until May 2012

DOT uncertain when Champlain span will be ready

— Will the new Champlain Bridge open as scheduled Oct. 9?

No one seems to know.

“We are currently in discussions with the contractor to see what impact the spring weather and flooding has had on construction and determine when the bridge will be opened to traffic,” said Carol Breen, senior public information officer with the New York State Department of Transportation.

She declined to offer an opening date — which has forced the Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition to postpone its planned opening celebration. That celebration was planned for Oct. 15 and 16.

DOT officials have insisted the bridge project is on schedule, despite granting the contractor a 65-day extension to its project schedule in March. DOT had listed Oct. 9 as the opening date on its website. Now there is no opening date listed.

Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider believes the bridge will open late. She thinks DOT is delaying making a formal announcement to delay public criticism as long as possible.

“I’ve called DOT and they haven’t called me back,” Kosmider said. “I can’t get anything firm from them.”

Flatiron Constructors of Lafayette, Colo., is building the span. It was the low-bidder at $69.6 million.

Flatiron is under contract to build the new span within 500 days of groundbreaking. The contract includes a provision requiring Flatiron to absorb the costs of the adjacent, temporary ferry service — about $30,000 a day — for every day beyond the 500-day limit. The contract also provides a financial incentive — up to $1.5 million — for Flatiron to complete the work in less than 500 days.

“The October (opening) date has all of the sudden disappeared,” said Karen Hennessy of the bridge coalition. “Now DOT tells us the opening date is undetermined. We’ve talked to DOT a great deal the past week without getting any sort of commitment. It would not be prudent on our part to throw a party and not have the guest of honor (the bridge) in attendance.”

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