Coast Guard, State agencies maintain safety during bridge demolition

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Coast Guard personnel along with state and local officials monitored and maintained a safety zone around the Lake Champlain Bridge that was brought down at 10 a.m. Monday.

The historic bridge was over 80 years old and had been closed to traffic for months leading up to today’s demolition.

Personnel from Coast Guard Station Burlington, Vt., worked closely with both New York and Vermont state agencies to enforce a 1,500-foot safety zone that surrounded the bridge.

“Coast Guard crews on a station 25-foot response boat maintained the safety zone on the north side of the bridge that had open water,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Zahn, executive petty officer at Station Burlington. “Coast Guard crews augmented state officials in airboats on the south side of the bridge where Lake Champlain was covered in ice,” said Zahn.

Mr. Ed Green, Sector Northern New England marine inspector, has been coordinating resources with other state and local agencies for months leading up to today’s demolition. He participated in the joint incident command that controlled the safety zone, demolition project and other security measures.

Now with the bridge down, regular ferry service will begin transporting both passengers and vehicles between New York and Vermont, a trip that should take about five minutes. Two ferry boats and temporary docks on both sides of the lake will be in place by the end of January. The ferry service will run until the new bridge is complete, which is scheduled for sometime in 2011.

The Coast Guard wants to remind people using Lake Champlain for recreation purposes that the ferry service will compromise ice thickness and safety to some degree in the area where the ferry is transiting. People should stay well away from the area where the ferry is transiting to ensure their safety. While the Coast Guard does maintain ice rescue teams on the lake, they can be up to an hour away from where the ferry is located, making a sudden emersion in the freezing waters life threatening.

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