Boyd Holliday and Terry Hamilton work Tuesday afternoon on the new Kenai River bridge in Soldotna as traffic passes on a temporary structure behind them. Project managers hope to have traffic on the new bridge later this year.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
When folks on the Kenai Peninsula order something from Outside and when it gets here they find it doesn’t fit, they usually send it back and exchange it.
When the item is a half dozen 400,000-pound steel girders, however, that’s not an option.
Instead, engineers assigned to the Sterling Highway bridge project in Soldotna are working to come up with a solution in place.
“There are some fit problems with the girders,” said Pat Wittrock, construction engineer for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Anchorage.
“A field fit is going on now,” said Wittrock, who heads up all highway and airport construction projects in the central region for the department.
Part of the fix, according to Wittrock, involves having steel shims fabricated out of state and shipped up for the bridge.
“Some (of the girders) didn’t fit exactly perfectly when they were set in place,” Wittrock said.
“It definitely is delaying the project,” he said.
Motorists driving past the project have observed that the huge girders look bowed upward at the middle of each section, but state project engineer Matt Coullahan has said the designed camber will straighten out when the concrete deck and asphalt surface of the bridge go on top.
Wittrock said he does not yet know the full extent of the delay, but said the goal continues to be having traffic on the bridge this year.
He said he has no concerns as far as the safety of the structure.
DOT spokesperson Rick Feller said, “To the Nth degree, we will assure there is not going to be a safety issue.”
In the meantime, work is continuing on the parts of the project that can be completed independently of the actual bridge.
Paving is being done on the approaches to the bridge from both sides, the concrete wing wall on the north side of the bridge is being finished and bridge workers are welding studs in place that will allow concrete forms to be bonded to the girders.
“To sum up, we are working on resolving the issues and our goal is still to get the bridge open to traffic by the end of the year maybe not the full five-lane configuration and get the temporary bridge out,” Wittrock said.
He said, “Weather is always an unknown,” and added that tenting and heating are tools workers will use enabling them to pour concrete even as temperatures begin to drop.
Shane Oyster, project engineer for Wilder Construction, said bridge workers will form up the bridge deck with overhangs extending beyond the width of the outside girders, and steel decking spans will be placed between the interior girders.
Reinforcing steel will be laid across the top before concrete is poured and the surface is paved with asphalt.
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