Girders Being Painted on Highway 172 Bridge in Brown County

Local News

The largest bridge painting project in Northeast Wisconsin is getting underway this week. But as Local 5’s Kris Schuller reports, it shouldn’t cause many issues for motorists. 

For 43 years the highway 172 bridge has been carrying drivers across the Fox River. And while the traffic lanes have been reconstructed, the steel girders underneath have never been repainted.  That’s about to change.

“For it to last this long and not have a complete overcoat…. we’ve asked a lot of that paint system,” said Eric Gwidt, WisDOT project manager.

Monday contractors placed equipment below the bridge for an $8 million girder repainting project that continues through November next year; supports which transportation officials say are showing quite a bit of rust.

“If you let that go too long it will deteriorate the girders to the point there are holes in them and the structural integrity of the bridge is weakened,” Gwidt said.

The paint on the half-mile bridge’s girders will be blasted off in segments – which will first be wrapped in tarps so paint particles are contained.

“It has a steel floor, so they can walk on it, tarps on the side to contain everything and giant vacuums and hoses to keep the air flowing in there to clean up the debris that comes out,” said Gwidt.

With the work taking place underneath the bridge – much over the Fox River – a temporary causeway is being installed for the contractor.

“Use that causeway to get their equipment down below on to barges, and then they’ll use man-lifts or small types of cranes to get the equipment up to the bridge,” he said.

Working under the bridge means no daytime lane closures. But the Ashwaubomay and Fox River trails may be temporarily closed at times. For this project to repaint 850,000 square feet of steel, the largest undertaking of its kind in Northeast Wisconsin.

And each day 80,000 vehicles cross the 172 bridge.

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