After almost a year of the Milwaukee Street bridge being ripped up, torn out and closed to traffic, the end finally is in sight.
Zenith Tech, the contractor for the bridge replacement project, on Wednesday fielded an expanded cast of about 100 concrete pourers, finishers and testing contractors who poured and smoothed out the long-awaited bridge deck over the Rock River downtown.
The state-managed project has slipped about four months behind its original completion date of late June, mainly because of repeated bouts of high water on the river last fall and this spring.
Billy Slater, a Zenith Tech project foreman, said he believes the project should wrap up—and the bridge should reopen to traffic—sometime in late October.
He said crews likely will complete finishing work around Oct. 27, the end date that Zenith Tech projected in early July when it rebooted the project schedule to account for months of earlier delays.
Slater said Wednesday’s cloudless, dry weather offered prime conditions for the big concrete job the company had hoped to knock out in one day.
It took more than 100 truckloads to supply the 1,100 yards of concrete needed for the 2-foot-thick deck that will serve as the driving surface of the new bridge. Crews used large cranes outfitted with concrete pumps to pour the bridge deck, while others used a moving compactor and manually smoothed the concrete in stages.
The bulk of the bridge deck was poured and smoothed by 4 p.m., but throughout the day Wednesday a set of bridge workers had to direct detoured traffic around gaggles of gawkers who crisscrossed West Milwaukee Street near a queue of cement trucks awaiting their turn to pour.
One man who directed traffic described bridge pours as “controlled chaos, because you’ve got to get in there and get it all done in a short time.”
He asked a curious Gazette reporter to move back from an intersection just west of the bridge. He said that while a concrete pour might be interesting to watch, the project’s ground zero was the wrong place for a bystander to turn into a spellbound “sidewalk foreman.”
“I’m going to have to get you moving because we’ve got all these trucks coming in. I want you safe,” he said. “We’re rolling.”