GREEN BAY - Green Bay drivers are facing a long closure of the Leo Frigo Bridge after a dip was found in the roadway early Wednesday morning. The bridge carries Interstate 43 over the Fox River.
The bridge is closed indefinitely. FOX 11 is told it won’t be a quick fix and it will likely take months before the bridge reopens.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb says the investigation into the sagging of a portion of Leo Frigo Bridge is just getting underway. From previous inspections DOT officials say they had no indication the bridge was anything but sound.
“I want to reiterate the bridge is not in any danger of collapse,” said Gottlieb at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Early morning travelers are the ones who first detected a problem on the Leo Frigo Bridge. Emergency callers reported a portion of the bridge sagging on the east side of the structure.
“That bridge is sagging in the center. I came over with a tractor trailer and she jumped that, the wheels came off. There’s something that’s not quite right,” said one caller.
Police were quick to assess the problem and promptly shut the bridge down to all traffic around 5:30 a.m. before anyone was hurt.
Authorities say a section of bridge about 400 feet long is affected. The area is around pier 22 on the east side of the bridge, between Webster Ave. and the middle of the bridge.
The bridge itself rests on dozens of concrete reinforced piers. The piers don't just sit on the ground they're part of pilings that are dug deep, deep into the ground to maintain their structure. They're not supposed to move but one did about three feet into the ground.
“Initial observation appears to be some settling,” said Gov. Scott Walker.
A DOT photo of the pier's footing shows the entire footing sank into the soil.
Bridge engineers wouldn't give a timetable for correcting the problem. But when pressed officials say the closure of the bridge could last months even up to a year.
FOX 11 asked engineers if the pier would have to be removed to correct the problem. Their first indication was yes it would have to been removed. County officials tell us that’s an indication this process will take some time. In the meantime, the bridge will remain closed indefinitely.
State transportation officials say drivers should plan to avoid the area and use alternate routes.
The detour route takes northbound Interstate 43 drivers to Webster Ave., south to Main St., west to Broadway, north to Mather St., west to Velp Ave., west to Atkinson Dr. and north back to I-43. Southbound drivers can reverse those directions. Police recommend crossing the Fox River at Mason Street because that bridge is designed to handle larger amounts of traffic.
Heavy traffic has been reported in downtown Green Bay Wednesday, as the 40,000 vehicles that normally use the bridge each day have been forced to find alternate routes.
Gov. Scott Walker says the cost of repairing the bridge is unknown, but that the state is committed to fixing it.
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