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Steel bearing replaced; closure expected through first week of April

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By DAVE TAYLOR

Landmark News Service

The steel bearing that dislodged from the Milton-Madison Bridge March 11, has been replaced, but the bridge will remain closed through at least the first week of April.

Walsh Construction crews began jacking up the bridge at 3:19 p.m. Friday, according to a joint release from Kentucky and Indiana highway officials. The process took nearly 15 hours to complete as the southeast corner of the bridge was raised nearly one foot in order to slide the new bearing into place. By 6 a.m. the next day, the jacks were removed with the bridge load back on its bearings.

“The jacking process went as expected,” said Dav Kessinger, project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “With this work completed, the focus is now on preparations for sliding the main truss.”

What had originally been scheduled as a seven-day closure for the bridge slide from its current location on temporary piers to its permanent location on rehabilitated concrete piers has been extended through at least the first week of April, transportation officials from both states said. Extra precaution is being taken to prevent further setbacks such as the March 11, incident that necessitated closure of the span to traffic.

Crews will continue installing sliding harnesses, which was in progress when the bearing dislodged, to prepare for the main slide. Additional restraints are being installed and the sliding harnesses modified to ensure there are not any additional problems. This follows a four-step process: The measures are designed off site, the designs are reviewed by both states, the materials are fabricated and/or delivered to the site, and finally, they are installed by bridge crews.

Each of the four steps has its own timeline, and one must be completed before the next. Meanwhile, Walsh Construction continues to work as they are able on other tasks that must be completed before the bridge reopens to traffic. For example, crews have poured the remaining concrete railings and deck for the approach bridge section that was slid into place on Thursday, March 13.

Additional preparations for the slide, the slide itself and post-slide work mean the bridge will likely remain closed through at least the first week of April, officials say.

The concrete approach bridge section that was slid laterally into place over the Milton riverbank was a precursor of the upcoming main truss slide because it involved the same equipment and process, only on a smaller scale.  

The nearly half-mile steel truss weighs in excess of 30 million pounds, according to a specifications sheet provided by Larry “Red Dog” Collins, Construction Inspection Manager for Michael Baker Jr., Inc., the company hired to provide inspections of the bridge construction operation.

Once the all clear is given to begin the slide of the main bridge section, the procedure could take up to 16 hours before the bridge rests in its final location – on top of the refurbished piers that held the old Milton-Madison Bridge in place beginning in 1929. During the slide, the U.S. Coast Guard will close the river.

While U.S. 421 remains closed across the Ohio River between Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky., detours will remain in effect. Signage is detouring traffic to the Markland Locks and Dam Bridge, connecting Kentucky Route 1039 and Indiana State Road 101, 26 miles upstream, or the I-65 Kennedy Bridge in Louisville, 46 miles downstream.

A ferry has been providing transportation across the river for emergency vehicles, such as an ambulance. Residents are asked to keep Ferry Street and the boat ramps clear on both sides of the river.

As updates become available, they will be posted on the project’s website, miltonmadisonbridge.com, and via Twitter at twitter.com/mmbridgeproject. Regular updates will also be provided at www.mytrimblenews.com.

The Milton-Madison Bridge Project is a joint effort between the Indiana Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The new steel truss bridge is 2,428 feet long and 40 feet wide with two 12-foot lanes and eight-foot shoulders – twice as wide as the old bridge.