By BRADEN LAMMERS
Progress on the northbound portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project can finally be seen above the water.
Construction crews on the downtown portion of the project broke the surface of the Ohio River Monday, as they prepared two footers that will connect four piers on what will become the bridge tower closest to the Indiana shoreline in Jeffersonville.
“We hit a milestone,” said Max Rowland, project manager for Walsh Construction. “That’s the first part of the bridge that you can see that’s coming up and out of the water. Everything else that we’ve done so far has been below the surface.”
Rowland explained that people will see a yellow tub surrounding two concrete piers that have been drilled into the riverbed. The tub itself is a 240,000-pound mold that has a precast concrete floor; it is 61 feet long and 22 feet wide.
On tower No. 5 — the tower closest to the Indiana shoreline— the western-most tub is in place and the eastern tub was being put in place Monday. Once the tubs are set crews will grout, with concrete, around the precast concrete floor of the tub and the two piers. The concrete is allowed to set up and the water is pumped out of the footer. The next step is to pour a 24-inch thick reinforced concrete seal in the bottom of the footer. The form is then filled with reinforcing steel and filled with concrete, creating the waterline footing for what will become one of the bridge towers.
Rowland said crews will be pouring the concrete into the footings in October and November.
The lower cross beam that will connect the two footings, creating a leg pedestal for the bridge, is expected to be poured this winter, according to a news release. The tower No. 5 leg sections that will extend above the Ohio River and bracket the new roadway are expected to be poured in the spring.
While the forms for the footers mark a milestone in the project, Rowland added crews still have a long way to go.
“We’re not even 10 percent yet,” he said. “We’ve got to do that [five] more times,” he said referring to putting the forms in place.
Once the concrete is poured and in place for tower No. 5, Walsh Construction crews will move on to tower No. 4, which is closer to the center of the river. The last tower in the water to be constructed will be tower No. 3, which is the closest to the Kentucky shoreline.
“It’ll be spring before you really see the towers coming up,” Rowland said. “They’ll be finishing the other shafts while we’re working on this.”
Once the towers in the water are completed crews will begin building the superstructure above the water, and crews will move onto the respective shores to begin creating the piers that are on dry land.
And so far, Walsh Construction has run into only very minor delays, mainly due to the bedrock being harder than expected.
“It’s taken us a little longer to drill through the rock than what we had anticipated, but we’re still on schedule,” Rowland said.
Rowland said the new northbound Interstate 65 bridge is on track for its April 2016 completion date. Once the northbound bridge is completed all traffic will be transferred onto the new bridge while repairs and redecking of the Kennedy Bridge takes place to convert it into a southbound-only structure.
The downtown portion of the bridges project is expected to be completed in October 2016.