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Second year of work wrapping up on I-90 bridge

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — The second year of the massive Interstate 90 bridge construction project is drawing to a close.

Fifty feet above the Mississippi River, ironworkers are wiring together thousands of pieces of rebar that will support the concrete piers that will hold up the $187.5 million interstate bridge. All of the wiring is done by hand. Workers are suspended above the icy water between Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to Ben Lovin, project manager for Burnsville, Minn.-based contractor Ames Construction Inc.

“The whole thing is hand built,” he said. “Every single piece, somebody’s done it by hand.”

But there is some machinery involved, including 170 truckloads of concrete that form each of the large piers. Sixteen piers have already been cast, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

On Friday, crews will begin prepping the bridge for winter to make snow plowing and travel easier in icy conditions.

The existing bridge, which was completed in 1967, was determined to be obsolete and lacking in structural redundancies that prevent it from collapsing if any piece should fail. Minnesota became concerned about “fracture critical” bridges and began phasing them out after the fatal 2007 collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis.

Work on the I-90 bridge replacement began in January 2013, and the new bridges are expected to open in 2016. Most things are on schedule, according to Lovin, but the cold weather caused a few setbacks.

“It’s not going to delay us in the end,” he said. “Just a few more things in the spring.”

The bridge crews will reduced from 220 workers, the peak during the summer months, to between 30 and 40 in the winter.

Traffic across the existing bridge is expected to return to normal in spring.

Information from: La Crosse Tribune, http://www.lacrossetribune.com

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