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Lorraine Franklin, in front of her gift shop sign. Photo: Sarah Harris
Lorraine Franklin, in front of her gift shop sign. Photo: Sarah Harris

Addison County, VT: A point of intersection

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Addison County, Vermont, is home to wide swaths of farmland, quaint towns, and the western slope of the Green Mountains. It's also home to one of the two bridges that cross Lake Champlain. The bridge is a lifeline for people who live on one side of the lake and work on the other. But when the old bridge was demolished in 2009, commuters had to find another way around. Lorraine Franklin owns a gift shop in West Addison, Vermont. The bridge closure directly affected her businesses -- so she decided to fight back.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Lorraine Franklin is small, energetic woman with a quick smile. Her brown-red hair is tinged with grey. She lives in West Addison, Vermont, where she owns several businesses: a gift shop called Champ's Trading Post, a mini golf course, and an old Victorian house she rents out for weddings and vacations.

"There's a bumper sticker my friend had years ago and I always loved it," Lorraine says, grinning. "It says 'Moonlight in Vermont or starve.' And that's kind of the way it is — you have to have more than one thing to depend upon because things can change here in an instant. That's exactly what happened to us when our bridge went down."

The new Champlain Bridge. Photo: Sarah Harris
The new Champlain Bridge. Photo: Sarah Harris
When the old bridge between Addison and Crown Point was demolished in 2009, Lorraine immediately saw an impact to her business. "It's like someone shut off a faucet. Literally nothing came through on the roads."

So she decided to do something about it. She helped form the Lake Champlain Bridge Coalition, a group of people from Vermont and New York who lobbied to get the bridge back in the same place, and figure out a solution in the meantime.

For months, businesses in Vermont were short on workers. And people from New York couldn't get back and forth to their jobs. People were driving 100 miles up to the Essex-Charlotte ferry and back down again. Lorraine says people from New York ended up staying in Vermont during the work week, even sleeping in their cars.

"A lot of my customers come from the New York side. We just took it for granted that each other would be there and never thought there would be a day when we couldn't access each other."

3 months after the bridge was demolished, New York and Vermont transportation agencies put in a temporary, 24-hour ferry just south of the old bridge location.

"The morning that ferry opened you never saw so many happy people in your life that just could get to work. At that point we still owned West Addison general store. That was so much fun to be there that day — it was like a family reunion. Just the feel that everybody had, that total joy of thank god, there's some semblance of normalcy again."

And when the bridge reopened in 2011, it was an even happier day. "People in awe just walking across it and looking up at it and beeping their horns, and happy."

Lorraine says that because the bridge close, the relationship between Vermont and New York got stronger. "People would just drive back and forth because they could. There were a lot of us that drove back and forth because we could. And it was so easy again. And it was like, we'll never take that for granted again."

Hear more stories from Sarah Harris' series on the intersection of Vermont, New York and Quebec.

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