GREEN BAY - State officials have set an ambitious goal for the reopening of the Leo Frigo Bridge.
Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb announced Tuesday morning at a press conference that the Department of Transportation is planning on having the structure reopened by January 17, 2014.
"We think that's an aggressive target," said Gottlieb.
The bridge that carries I-43 over the Fox River closed on September 25 after one of its piers--number 22--sank about two feet.
The DOT said it put out requests for bids on Tuesday. Actual construction and repair work is expected to begin on November 4.
The construction contract would require the bridge to be finished by January 17. There would be incentives to have it finished before then and penalties if finished after that date.
"I don't think I really need to add that this is a very unique situation, anything can happen as we go forward with this process," said Gottlieb.
The DOT initially thought it would need to repair pilings for seven piers, 19 through 25. After further soil investigation, officials determined only piers 21 through 25 need to be fixed.
A contractor will install new concrete supports at these five piers. The supports will go 30 feet into the ground around the existing pilings, said Scot Becker, a state bridge engineer.
"But we're also protecting that concrete with three inches of sacrificial concrete, extra concrete. We're putting a PVC sleeve over that," said Becker.
Becker said this plan means the corroded piles will no longer bear any weight.
"The piles that are there will not be carrying any load at all, so no matter how corroded they are, they will just be sitting there," he said.
Similar work has been done on bridges in areas with earthquake concerns. Becker said he is confident this plan will work.
"These footings and piles will be there for 75 years," he said.
One of the final steps of the repair work will be raising the pier that sunk.
DOT spokesperson Kim Rudat said the exact cost of the work will be determined once the bid is awarded next week.
"Early in the process, we put out a cost estimate of $50 million for everything: the investigation, the stabilization, the fix, because we weren't really sure what we were dealing with at the time," said Rudat.
The contractor could get incentives for early completion or penalties for delays. But the repair project manager, Tom Buchholz, emphasized that safety remains the first priority.
"It's a sense of urgency, but it's also a sense of organizing and communicating out in the field, who is doing what," Buchholz said.
The stabilization towers that will stand under pier 22 through the construction should be completed in early November. The construction of those towers could overlap with some of the repair work.
DOT officials said they considered several different repair plans, and they are confident they have chosen the best one.
They said the target completion date of January 17 accounts for challenges from wintry weather.
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