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I want to see them float it up, thatís going to be a feat in itself. They say it will float, but I guess we'll see.

Work underway on arch for new VT-NY bridge

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Construction of the Lake Champlain Bridge that will connect West Addison, Vermont and Crown Point, New York has been moving forward this summer.

The bridge's signature steel arch has been assembled at an old marina on the New York shore, and looks like it's ready to be moved to the site of the new bridge. But as VPR's Melody Bodette reports, there's still more work to be done before that can happen.

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Port Henry, New York has a new attraction this summer. It’s a 400-foot long, 83-foot high steel archway that’s being built here — a few miles north of the bridge under construction in Crown Point. 

A team of workers wearing orange-vests are bolting connections, while on-lookers check out the progress.

Mike Allen of Witherbee, watches from a bench at the nearby fishing access with a friend: “It’s quite a project, it’s something to do, I’m retired and I come down everyday to see them work on it.”

Still, Allen is anxious for the return of the bridge and the end of a temporary ferry that’s been running in its place. "That ferry’s an awful pain to get back and forth. You know, you’ve got to plan two hours ahead of time to get over there and, then you get held up on the way back if you happen to hit it when everybody’s getting off of work," he said.

The bridge is scheduled to open in October, but the project has encountered delays because the marina where the arch now stands was underwater for over a month after record flooding this spring.

New York State Department of Transportation Engineer John Grady said while the arch steel has been assembled, cables still need to be put in place.

“The cable work is very intricate work, all the cables and the anchorages have to be installed, a lot of tensioning has to be done, they have to be balanced," Grady said. "We’re looking at least a month more of work on our arch.”

When the nearly two-million-pound arch is ready it will be floated down the lake to the bridge site where it will be raised.

 All of the steel at the bridge site is up and waiting. Meanwhile, the bridge contractor, Flatiron, has begun pouring the concrete decks.

Engineer John Grady says hot weather can be a problem.

“It can have an impact on the placement of concrete because, it is not optimal to placing concrete in extreme heat," Grady said. "So oftentimes we will place our concrete, we’ll start very early in the morning or late in the afternoon, so we can take advantage of cooler weather."

The deck will be placed on the archway after it arrives. Then sidewalks and railings will need to be installed. Grady says transportation officials are in active discussions with the contractor to determine whether the bridge will open on October 9 as scheduled.

Back in Port Henry, Mike Lautenbacher is fishing off a pier in sight of the arch. “I think it’s fabulous, I want to see them float it up, that’s going to be a feat in itself," Lautenbacher said. "They say it will float, but I guess we’ll see.”

For many the arch’s arrival at the bridge site will mean the end of construction is near.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m Melody Bodette in Port Henry, New York.

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