GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – On Thursday, three Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) officials, local police agencies, and fire department personnel gathered to provide a community-wide update on the current condition of the Mason Street Bridge, which has been closed for over a week.
WisDOT officials leading the meeting included Brady Rades WisDOT bridge engineer, Scott Nelson WisDOT Northeast Region Structure and Maintenance Supervisor, and Josh Dietsche WisDOT Bureau of Structures.
Nelson opened up the meeting by emphasizing that their number one priority during this repair project has been safety; safety of those travelling and safety of the workers making these repairs. Keeping that in mind, Nelson stated that the work is going to take time but they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ the bridge will be up and running by the end of the month.
“We will not put the bridge back in operation until we know that it is safe to do so. We now know what happened at the bridge and we have a plan to repair the bridge and that’s underway. At this time we are cautiously optimistic that we can have the bridge back in operation by the end of the month,” said Nelson.
Nelson shared that part of what makes the work on the bridge so time-consuming and challenging is that crews are working in constrained conditions and confined spaces.
“Retrofitting is much more difficult than building new. When we build a lift bridge from the ground up we start at the bottom and as we work up we’re adding mechanical components, gears, electrical, and all sorts of different stuff. In this case, they’ve [crews] got a fixed environment they have to work in to make these repairs, so it’s not easy work,” said Nelson.
Nelson estimated that the total repair cost between the design and repairs will be somewhere around $500,000, which will come out of the WisDOT maintenance budget.
Rades added that their initial investigation launched on July 6, discovered the problem was located in the northeast corner of the bridge due to functional pieces of the bridge not being aligned properly and therefore causing corrosion and malfunction in the bridge’s movements.
“The bolts that hold this vertical face in place were experiencing some corrosion within this shim pack material that ultimately weakens their strength and the force of those bolts couldn’t resist the movement of this bearing support as the bridge was moving,” explained Rades.
When asked if there were any initial signs of the mechanical failure detected on the bridge during a previous inspection, Dietsche said ‘no’ and that this was a ‘unique situation.’
“The bottom line was that this was just a really unique, we only have 45 lift bridges across the state in total, only about 15 in this type and even each one of those gets a bit unique amongst themselves. So it’s kind of a one-of-a-kind situation,” said Dietsche.
Nelson supported Dietsche’s statement adding that he is “very confident that this failure was a unique situation. The 12 other bridges we have in the Northeast region are safe.”
While Nelson made note that these repairs wouldn’t happen overnight, he assured the public that ‘significant’ progress has been made thus far and there is a possibility the bridge may open before the end of the month if WisDOT deems it safe. “It’s not easy work, it’s slow work. but Like I said we will open the bridge when it is safe to do so,” concluded Nelson.