Construction on bridge to resume

Posted: Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Some work is slated to resume on the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna next week. Just how much remains in question.

“We will start with some work next week,” said David Dickhaus, Alaska assistant division manager for Wilder Construction Company in Anchorage, on Tuesday. “We haven’t finalized the work schedule yet.”

Originally, Wilder and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities officials had planned to have the bridge open by the fall of 2006, but weather-related problems and steel girders that did not fit the bridge design caused delays that put the project several months behind.

After construction workers put in several seven-day weeks of 10-hour days, they were given an extended holiday break, which began Dec. 22.

When asked if concrete for the bridge deck can be poured during the zero-degree temperatures the area is experiencing now, Dickhaus said, “There is sort of a limit as to what we can do. The highest priority is that it be done right.”

The original plan was to pour in May 2006, project manager Scott Harter said in December.

Dickhaus said Wilder is working with the state to create a construction schedule, with the plan to get the bridge completed as soon as is feasible.

Prior to the Christmas break, workers were welding corrugated deck panels between steel girders spanning the river and bolting other panels on top of the girders.

The top panels are necessary to compensate for the girders not fitting properly when they arrived from a Montana steel plant in September.

Bridge officials have discussed heating the girders to facilitate pouring concrete during freezing outdoor temperatures, and they have considered waiting for warmer weather before pouring.

Dickhaus said not doing it right would only cause further delays if the work needed to be done over.

Once the concrete deck is poured and has a chance to set up, two lanes of the new bridge will be paved with temporary asphalt and vehicle traffic will be diverted from the temporary bridge.

At that time, workers will begin removing the temporary bridge.

In the past, bridge officials have said once traffic is diverted off the temporary bridge, workers would have 90 days to complete removal of its steel pilings from the river.

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