Bridge work back on track

Paving now expected in November

Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hard-hatted construction workers were clambering all over the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna during morning rush hour Monday as work resumed following a three-week lull.

Bridge work slowed in mid-September when it was discovered that the six 400,000-pound steel girders spanning the Kenai River did not fit properly when they arrived from the Montana steel plant that made them.

On Monday afternoon, the state project engineer said the contractor’s corrective action plan has been received and work is resuming.

“They’ll start installing the overhang brackets for the form later this week,” said Matt Coullahan, engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, of the silver steel and wooden concrete forms that will be attached to the bridge spans.

Coullahan also said steel shims to correct the girders are being manufactured by a Seattle fabrication plant and are expected to be in Soldotna by the end of the month.

Bridge workers are tentatively scheduled to begin pouring concrete for the bridge deck in early November.

“You’ll be seeing a big tent over the bridge from about the first of November until the week of the 20th,” Coullahan said, as the bridge will be heated to facilitate concrete pouring as temperatures fall.

He said the project will be heated with natural gas-fired heaters, and said the inside of the steel girders will also be heated.

After the concrete cures, temporary asphalt will be poured so two traffic lanes will be open before Thanksgiving Day, according to Coullahan.

“Then, next season, we will pave the other half of the bridge and remove the temporary asphalt,” he said. The temporary material will be reused by the paving contractor.

“As soon as traffic is on the new bridge, we will begin the removal of the temporary bridge,” Coullahan said.

He said that will be a lengthy process involving the removal of the asphalt surface, the removal of the bridge deck and supporting steel structure and switching utility lines from the temporary bridge to the new bridge.

On Monday, workers were doing structural steel work at the center pier of the new bridge, driving pilings for lights on the south side of the river and doing embankment work on the back abutment walls on both sides of the river, according to Coullahan.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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