New Champlain ferry operation imminent

first_img Residents in the area surrounding the Lake Champlain Bridge share family, friends and business relationships on both sides of the lake, Vermont Governor Douglas said. Establishing this new, free ferry service will allow these relationships and commerce to resume more normally.   On B-Day, December 28, 2009, it took longer for the clouds of smoke, rust and paint to settle than for the 500-plus shaped charges of MRX high explosive to cut enough weakened steel beams to bring down the Champlain Bridge. In its place, work on a new bridge is expected to start this spring. In the meantime, a new ferry located at the same spot was expected to begin operations by the end of January.The implosive demolition opened the way for a set of operations more complicated than dealing with the old bridge, whose remains by mid-January had been fished out of the crossing to the point where a 20-foot-deep channel was available for future boat traffic. (A 1,000-foot safety zone has been declared around the bridge removal operation no ice-fishing shanties, either which is supposed to be completed by April 15). Attention had turned to the project of creating a ferry at the same crossing a project that had begun before the implosion and was on track to be done by the end of January–and to strategic decisions that would shape the Champlain Bridge s replacement.The Ticonderoga ferry had been kept running through December 27 usually it closes after fall foliage season, and ice had briefly forced owner Michael Matot to shut it down on December 17 by Jeff Provost s company Dock Doctors. The Ferrisburgh firm, which employs about 35 people in the colder months and as many as 50 in the summer, does manufacturing in Vermont but sells more of its products in the Lake George area of New York, where it has a branch office.Thus Dock Doctors found itself among the businesses who had employees or markets or suppliers that required crossing Lake Champlain, and saw the lake become a divide when the bridge was closed October 16. Since the summer, usage had been limited to one lane, with no trucks over 40,000 pounds allowed. The generally accepted figure is that in normal operation, there were about 3,400 trips across the bridge each day.Provost made himself known to the public when he announced, at a states-sponsored hearing in Addison following the steel bridge s complete shutdown, that he could swiftly put up docks capable of serving barges like this in use on the Hudson river, which could handle (as could the docks) both heavy truck traffic and winter ice.Neither state took him up on the offer, but in the weeks that followed, Dock Doctors ice-managing craft and two bubbler lines went to work pushing back the ice then keeping the crossing open between Larabee s Point and Ticonderoga. It took them time to come around to it, Provost said in a recent interview but a lot of ferry users won t forget the sight of the channel passing between acres of ice like the Biblical parting of the Red Sea.Bubbler lines are used all over the world, Provost said. A compressor pushes air through hoies in a hose running along the bottom of the body of water, the air bubbles enlarge as they rise (less pressure), and soon there is an upward draft, similar to that of a ceiling fan, except it is sending water upward. The lake bottom and the water near it are warmer, he said which is why some kinds of fish plow into bottom mud to survive and creating a circulation that brings up the warmer water maintains a wall that prevents ice from forming.The Ti ferry could have run all winter, between its two bubbler lines, plus propeller devices that move water near shores, and their barge and its small crane to deal with any loose floating ice, Provost said. In fact, there is a bubbler operation they began 12 years ago in Pittsburgh for the Army Corps of Engineers, to keep 100 boat slips open, which is still going.But no insurance company would continue the Ti ferry s insurance, Provost said, because of one risk assessor. He didn t even come and look. Instead, based on the fact that the Ti ferry s quarter inch steel hull wasn t meant to run through ice, he recommended against insuring the operation even though there was no ice, Provost said.A NYS-DOT bulletin announced that on January 14, Lake Champlain Transportation would deploy one of their ferries to the future ferry crossing between Chimney Point and Crown Point, to cruise back and forth and keep ice from blocking the channel. Two days later it was there, doing exactly that.John Zicconi, VTrans director of planning, outreach and community affairs, had no doubt that the ferry could double as an ice-breaker; the company keeps a crossing open in the Champlain Islands with one, he observed. Provost said it seemed a huge waste of money to him, running a ferry rather than a few compressors, but we have to look to the future.The future of the crossing is unfolding as three concurrent efforts: removing the remains of the bridge (no one has said how the concrete piers will be taken down); finishing new ferry docks at Chimney Point and Crown Point and starting regular ferry service (which Zicconi said is on track to start by the end of January); and designing, planning, permitting, and building a new bridge (to open in 2011 if many things go well, or in 2012 if not).One key decision was made, as promised, a few days after the January 11 closing of a public comment period regarding the design of the new bridge. The projected cost of a new bridge had gone from the NYS-DOT s rough estimate of $50 million prior to discovering a fatal flaw in one of the unreinforced concrete bridge piers to a rough estimate in mid-January of $111 million, counting the costs of building and operating a ferry and subsidizing travel on the existing ferries. With the Vermont, New York and the country as a whole facing major deficits and a stalled economy, there was every chance that budgetary issues would trump aesthetic considerations and the effect of replacing a National Historic Monument with something of Spartan simplicity on the area s attractiveness to tourists.HNTB, the Kansas City firm contracted to design the new bridge, put forward six potential bridge renderings. The long-span steel girder bridge and sequential concrete bridge, both with the roadway as the highest point, resembled Interstate highway construction; the steel composite cable-stayed bridge and concrete extradosed bridge both had the roadway supported by cables connected to high towers (one such cable-stayed bridge is visible in the heart of Boston; for a spectacular example, look up the Millau Bridge in France, which spans a valley rather than a river); and the network tied arch bridge and modified network tied arch bridge both had the middle of the roadway held up by cables tied at a steel arch.The modified arch drew overwhelming support from the public and from the citizens advisory group, a panel of New York and Vermont state and local officials plus business representatives. On each side its arch extended down past the roadway to a pier and from there continued upward in check-mark fashion to support more of the roadway; the concept seemed to suggest a higher highway with a better scenic view, and the overall profile was stylish rather than severe. In mid-January, the two state transportation agencies looked at the results of the informal survey, and chose the same arch design the public had favored. But that did not settle all the issues.The reason for putting a new bridge where the old one had been was, officials said, largely to avoid the time and expensive of archaeological investigations Lake Champlain and its shores having been historically important corridors for at least 400 years. Deviating at all from the previous footprint even at the same crossing–would set in motion federally required processes.That set off alarm bells for cyclists and pedestrians, a group that has grown substantially with the strengthening conviction the country should support and enhance means of transportation that do not increase global warming by burning fossils fuels. If the width of the bridge is not increased, to avoid increasing its footprint, how could there by room for adding cycling lanes and sidewalks?Zicconi said that whatever is true for the base of the bridge, the traveled way will have 11-foot vehicular lanes, five-foot shoulders, and sidewalks; unusually wide vehicles, such as farming machinery, would utilize shoulder space. Asked if the curbs for the sidewalks were being designed to allow cyclists to leap from the shoulder to the sidewalk when confronted by a dangerous situation a standard safety maneuver for cyclists he said no one had brought up that issue.The strongest pressure for accelerating ferry and bridge construction has come from the business community, where loss of bi-state business and employee travel have been serious issues. All sorts of improvisations and adaptations have helped keep the impacts from becoming extreme: Basin Harbor quickly arranging a pedestrian ferry; public transit agencies on both sides of the lake adding bus routes between towns or businesses and ferry landings; the state paying ferry charges so those fees wouldn t increase the cost of commuting; businesses or nonprofits assisting employees who commute (Middlebury College and the Porter Medical Center, for example); carpooling; and in the case of places like the West Addison General Store (hurting but still going, said owner Dana Franklin) and the Bridge Restaurant in Addison, voluntary supportive purchases by area residents.Even where successful, the effort has been strenuous. At Porter, where 75 employees were from New York State, only two people left because of the bridge situation, according to spokesman Ron Hallman. It hasn t been easy, he said, especially for people leaving or coming onto a shift at 11 pm. Nor has the $250,000 they have spent in employee assistance as of mid-January been easy budgetarily. He summed up: It s big issue.Much was made early on of three Vermont farmers with operations or fields or cows across the lake (make that four: part of the Bridge Restaurant s popularity comes from featuring local farm beef). But the bigger agricultural impact might arrive later for Bourdeau Brothers, the business name used for Bourdeau Brothers in northern Vermont, Bourdeau & Bushey in Middlebury, and Feed Commodities International, and for their customers. Jim Bushey, who manages in Middlebury, said that if there is no effective means of reaching their New York State customers by spring, when services like seeding and fertilizing are needed, the situation could become serious. Sending feed trucks through Whitehall, at the southern end of the lake, has been a considerable expense, he said.It may never be possible to get a good figure for the total impact, said Andy Mayer, executive director of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce. But their Middlebury office, which has been an information relay point, send out a survey in the late fall, not aimed at affected parties but simply using their contact list. The 83 surveys returned indicated losses of $60-$300 per week. Some help is anticipated from the state s economic development resources; early on, business people said they were more interested in grants than loans, but the feeling has swung the other way, that loans with low or no interest would help, he said.When the bridge closed, both states declared transportation emergencies, but so far there has not been a push to declare an economic emergency. As for funding the new bridge, the formula repeatedly cited would have an 80 percent federal share matched by 20 percent from the states, with each paying 10 percent. Efforts are underway to secure some sort of appropriation or earmark that would defray all or part of the state shares.The unexpected bridge closure and demolition, for safety reasons, brought attention back to the VTrans’ 2007 Road to Affordability and its premise that repairing and maintaining infrastructure promptly is much cheaper, in the long run, than allowing emergency situations to arise. A recent online FAQ for that plan states that The Agency has $1.5 billion in highway, bridge and culvert projects already identified and under development. At our current pace of spending $60 million annually on roadway projects and $50 million annually on structures like bridges and culverts, it will take about 15 years to complete everything on our books. And this does not account for inflation or needs that will surface between now and the year 2022.The upcoming Legislature will have to decide whether increased bonding would amount to increased deficit spending, which would hurt the state s bond interest rate, or whether prompt attention to infrastructure needs would help in the long run.Despite the recession, a we ll get there spirit has prevailed. At the telephone number for the Bridge Restaurant, owner and operator Lisa Cloutier thanks people for calling The No Bridge Restaurant, which she says is closed for the time being because the loss of the bridge minimized traffic along the corridor (her restaurant is at the junction of Routes 17 and 125, a few hundred yards from the crossing). However, the message insists, Make no mistake about it: once the ferry comes into this corridor, this restaurant will be back open again.Source: Vermont Business Magazine. Story by Ed Barna. Ed Barna is a freelance writer from Middlebury. New York Governor David Paterson traveled to Crown Point, NY, today and was expected to announce that a new ferry operating at the location of the former Champlain Bridge was expected to begin operation by the end of January, in other words, by Sunday at the latest. Full, regular service is expected first thing Monday. This has been a long-time coming for those commuters using circuitous travel routes to reach destinations to and from Vermont, and for those businesses on both sides of Lake Champlain who count on those commuters. The free service will run around the clock and every day. The crossing will take about 15 minutes.last_img read more

Security cameras help Salvadoran police fight street gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18

first_img The surveillance cameras will help security forces keep track of the criminal activities of the two largest gangs in El Salvador – Mara Salvatrucha, which is also known as MS-13, and Barrio 18, which is also known as 18th Street and M-18. Both of these gangs engage in killings, extortion, armed robbery, kidnapping, and micro-trafficking of drugs. Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 have both formed alliances with international drug trafficking groups, such as the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, which operate in El Salvador and other parts of Central America. The gangs help drug cartels transport cocaine and other drugs north to Mexico, the United States, and other destinations. The Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, two Mexican transnational criminal organizations, have expanded their operations in recent years in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Monitoring MS-13 and Barrio 18 Training, coordination, and intelligence Technology is essential to the security forces of any nation, Aviles said. For example, London has used closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) for years to monitor the streets of the city. The new cameras will be phased in, authorities said. The first phase began May 20, when authorities began installing 360 security cameras, which the National Civil Police (PNC) will use to monitor city streets for criminal activity, according to the Ministry of Security. Each surveillance camera can cover as much ground as 22 police officers on patrol, Jose Ricardo Perdomo, the minister of justice and public security, told reporters the day authorities began installing the devices. Authorities installed many of the cameras on streets that led into and out of San Salvador. “In the past, it was easier to point to specific areas that could be dangerous. Unfortunately, crime is spreading geographically,” Aviles said. “San Salvador is a sensitive area again.” The government plans on placing up to 6,500 cameras in the capital city and outlying areas. Images captured by the security cameras can be stored in a database for up to eight years. Authorities will be able to use images to monitor crimes as they occur, to identify potential criminal suspects and victims, and to check the registration of vehicle license numbers. Each camera has a range of about 800 meters. The ability of cameras to cover large amounts of territory will allow police who monitor the cameras to conduct “virtual patrols.” The cameras will send images to the PNC’s central command and control center. PNC authorities will monitor the images to respond to dispatch officers to crimes in progress and to gather intelligence. A pledge to fight crime Using technology to fight crimecenter_img On June 10, Minister of Justice and Security Benito Lara pledged the government is doing everything it can to fight crime and improve security.in every part of El Salvador. “Our policy is clear, we will develop everything in our power to combat crime. We will deploy more police officers in areas where gangs operate,” Lara said. The combination of improvements in technology and cooperation between the police and the residents of El Salvador should lead to improvements in public safety, Aviles said. “Any action to prevent insecurity and violence brings results,” he said. “In the near future the crime reduction is expected.” The security cameras are an important tool in the fight against crime, but they are part of a larger effort which involves improved training, intelligence gathering, and cooperation between citizens and the PNC, as well as between Salvadoran and U.S. security forces, according to Aviles. “Technology alone will not solve the problem of gangs or organizations of transnational organized crime,” Aviles said. “Technology needs to be accompanied by good training for all members of the security forces, equipment, weapons, vehicles, advanced communication, coordination and intelligence to successfully combat these criminal organizations.” Before they began installing large numbers of security cameras, authorities tested the surveillance system by installing a small number of the devices in San Salvador, according to the Ministry of Security. Those first cameras helped police capture a gang of car thieves, stop a drug transaction, and identify extortion suspects. Video and images from security cameras can be important tools in the fight against crime, Aviles said. Police and prosecutors can use video and photographic images from security cameras to identify criminals and bring them to justice. Video and photographic evidence can be crucial in criminal trials. The security camera system cost more than $5 million (USD), according to the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety. The camera surveillance system is equipped with the most sophisticated technology available and is protected against cyber-attacks. Salvadoran authorities are increasing their use of technology to fight crime. For example, authorities have blocked cellphone service at 10 prisons throughout the country to fight crime. Cellphones are prohibited inside prisons, but some incarcerated gang leaders have had friends or relatives smuggle the devices to them inside prison. The gang leaders have used the smuggled cellphones to direct the criminal activities of their gangs. Providing the best in technology is part of government’s broad strategy to fight gangs, international drug trafficking groups, and common criminals. In addition to the surveillance camera system, the government in recent years has provided the PNC an automated ballistics and fingerprint identification system, which helps police conduct criminal investigations. By Dialogo July 21, 2014 Salvadoran authorities plan to install more than 6,000 security cameras in the capital city of San Salvador and outlying areas in the coming months to improve public safety. The cameras will help security forces monitor and confront violence by gangs, transnational criminal organizations, and common criminals, according to Educational Foundation for the Prevention of Drug Abuse (FORESEE) executive director Carlos Aviles. “The use of video surveillance cameras will enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement against drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, common crime, theft and other emerging threats,” Aviles said. “It will strengthen (crime) prevention in San Salvador.” last_img read more