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Leo Frigo bridge work altered by harsh cold, but still on track for January

Dec. 20, 2013
 
Wisconsin DOT footage of Leo Frigo bridge jacking
Wisconsin DOT footage of Leo Frigo bridge jacking: Wisconsin DOT footage of Leo Frigo bridge jacking
Jacking of the northbound lanes of the Leo Frigo Bridge is completed Thursday. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
Jacking of the northbound lanes of the Leo Frigo Bridge is completed Thursday. The difference in height of the retaining wall of the southbound lanes can be seen here. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

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Harsh winter conditions have forced operational changes, but repairs to the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge remains on schedule.

State highway officials said Thursday repairs are progressing smoothly, noting that the job is two-thirds complete.

Contractor Zenith Tech Inc. has received permission to switch from a round-the-clock operation to a daytime-only effort, because of the rugged winter weather.

“It just wears on people,” project manager Tom Buchholz said during a briefing with the news media at the job site.

Officials from the state Department of Transportation provided an an up-close look at the site where crews have assembled a new support structure and now are boosting a sagging portion of the bridge back into place.

The 8,000-foot span across the Fox River has been closed since Sept. 25 when motorists detected a 2-foot dip in the pavement east of the river. Investigators later determined that corrosion had weakened vertical steel pilings, causing the structure to buckle.

Carrying traffic through Green Bay on Interstate 43, the bridge typically serves about 40,000 motorists a day.

Starting this week, Zenith Tech crews used high-powered hydraulic jacks to boost the bridge back into position — a process complicated by its size and by the distance it must be raised. According to state officials, the sagging portion weighs 3.23 million pounds, which is roughly equal to seven times the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

Considering the stress of the sudden partial failure, state officials said the bridge deck itself does not appear to need any repair.

Bruce Enke, technical services manager for the highway department, said officials consulted with outside experts and tested the 80-foot-wide bridge deck to ensure that it did not sustain structural damage.

“We didn’t find anything,” Enke said.

The bridge is scheduled to reopen Jan. 17, with Zenith Tech facing a $50,000-a-day penalty for delays — or an identical bonus for finishing early.

In switching to a daytime-only operation, Zenith Tech doubled the size of the crew working between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. and ceased overnight work. Officials said the change should have no effect on the schedule.

The Waukesha-based contractor has declined to comment since the job began.

The focus this week switched to raising, or “jacking,” the concrete-and-steel bridge platform back where it belongs. Crews are using 10 hydraulic jacks, each capable of exerting enough pressure to support 183,000 pounds.

Work is nearing completion on the northbound lanes and will be shifted this weekend to the southbound lanes.

Buchholz said one jack temporarily failed and a light pole was damaged, but the process otherwise has gone well with no troubles.

“It’s slow and steady to get it done,” he said. “And it’s going fine.”

swilliams@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @pgscottwilliams.

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