New date set for temporary bridge use

Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When Kenai River bridge project manager Chuck Swenor presented the plans of the new Kenai River bridge in a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting in February, he said the proposed construction schedule looked, "kind of ambitious."

Since that time, the crews have pounded away diligently but experienced some setbacks — parts and pieces that have slowed things down from indulging that ambition.

The tentative February plan stated traffic would be moved to the temporary bridge by May 1. As time passed, so did that projected date: to May 15, May 26 and now, more definitely, 12:01 a.m. June 8. That date was chosen because the bridge will incur the least amount of use at the time.

The latest push back is due to new project requirements from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities office in Juneau. Swenor said the proviso calls for earthquake restraints. The X-shaped reinforcements are being added to the piers this week.

"Besides that, the bridge is basically done," Swenor said. "We just need to get the access points done."

When the access points are installed, temporary water, sewer, cable and electric lines will be, too.

"There is a lot of work involved in getting that area done," Swenor said.

This and the installation of a 4 1/2-foot pedestrian walkway on the upstream side of the temporary bridge has caused some delay. Swenor said the walkway has added an additional $250,000 to the project.

As the bridge's finish draws closer, crews will install an "arm" that will extend from the temporary bridge downstream in order to hold a crane that will demolish the old bridge, a structure five times weaker than its temporary replacement. Swenor said the temporary trestle, "is a stout one."

"If that crane (weighing 135 tons) was ever on the old bridge, it would be in the river right now. It doesn't have any problems on the temporary bridge," he said.

Regardless of the scheduled adjustments, Swenor said the setbacks will not affect the completion of the new bridge due for traffic in October 2006.

"The final opening date of the new bridge has not slipped — not even a minute," he said, adding, "unless a disaster hits."

The bridge project also includes a new stoplight at the Kobuk and Sterling Highway intersection, upgrading traffic signals along the highway and a sedimentation pond on Riverside Drive that crews currently are preparing.

"It's being grubbed right now," Swenor said.

"Grubbed" means removing all the stumps and sticks from the area. Once that portion of the project is completed, 16,000 shrubs will be planted around it for its city disguise.

A Web cam also has been set up in order for bridge building fanatics to track construction progress, however, it is not yet operational due to software glitches.

Once completed, the new bridge will be nearly 100 feet wide with five lanes of traffic and a 2 1/2-foot bike lane in both directions.

For more information on the project, go to www.kenairiverbridge.com or call the project office at 260-8441.



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