Last Sections of Bridge Lifted into Place

The bridge will span the Maumee River north of downtown Toledo.
The bridge will span the Maumee River north of downtown Toledo.
The last section was lifted into place with a crane.
The last section was lifted into place with a crane.
Ironworkers wrenched the last section into place.
Ironworkers wrenched the last section into place.

Editor's Note: this story was first posted on WTOL.COM on December 20, 2006.

NORTH TOLEDO -- After years of work, the Veterans' Glass City Skyway hit a major milestone on Wednesday.  Crews lifted the last pre-cast concrete sections into place, connecting the two sides of the bridge for the first time.

At a construction cost of $220 million dollars, the Skyway is the largest single construction project in ODOT history. When completed, the cable-stayed, precast segmental concrete bridge will carry six lanes of Interstate 280 across the Maumee River in Toledo. It replaces the Craig Memorial Bridge, one of the few remaining drawbridges in the U.S. interstate system.

Construction on the span has been going on for years now, causing traffic tie-ups on both sides of the river.  Wednesday morning, crews lifted the last sections into place, connecting the spans.  "Today we'll be grabbing two segments from below and raising them up into position. At that point, they'll find the stray. Next couple of weeks, put last ten inches of concrete in and you'll be able to walk right across it," said Mike Gramza, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

But was there a chance the two sides wouldn't meet?  "Oh, they're gonna match.  We have adjustments with these cable stays," said Jerome Laub, an ironworker.  "Either that or we'll have a big speed bump."

With his Polaroid camera in hand, life-long Toledoan Arthur Krueger made his way to the Veterans' Glass City Skyway on Wednesday morning.  "I'm here to take pictures," said Krueger.  "I've been watching it since it started."

Arthur says he prefers Polaroids, because you don't have to wait for pictures.  But he says waiting for projects like the bridge to be complete has been worth it.  "This is one of the biggest milestones for the city of Toledo," said Krueger.  "One of the best."

"Everybody that came to this job came here to build a bridge.  [We] didn't just come here to work. It's a great experience," said Laub.  But as an American flag was raised on the final section, it was a bittersweet experience for workers who remembered the human cost of the project.

In February of 2004, four ironworkers were killed and four more were hurt when a 1,000-ton construction truss came crashing down.  The truss was used to lift concrete sections of the roadway into place.  Nearly all the crane's wreckage fell between the highway lanes, narrowly missing passing traffic and landing on two construction trucks.

Killed were Mike Phillips, 42; Robert Lipinski, Jr., 44; and Mike Moreau, 30.  Arden Clark II, 47, died of his injuries in the days shortly after the incident.  Four more people were hurt.

After an investigation, OSHA determined the company failed to properly secure the truss before the collapse. Bridge contractor Fru-Con agreed to pay $293,000 in fines and increase safety oversight. The company also agreed that it will now have at least one independent consultant at all of its bridge projects in the U.S.

OSHA also fined St. Louis-based Fru-Con $280,000 -- the maximum allowed -- because the agency said the company violated four workplace safety standards. OSHA said at the time that the company knew of the problems and did nothing to correct it.

Fru-Con paid $11.25 million dollars to settle lawsuits filed in Lucas County by the families of Phillips, Lipinski, and Clark.  The company reached a separate settlement with Moreau's family, who sued in a Monroe County court.

Count on News 11 to follow the bridge as construction continues.

Posted by AEB