High water levels hinder work on new bridge

Jordan Beck | Daily Press In this Daily Press file photo, work continues on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s bridge replacement project.

WELLS — Construction on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) bridge replacement project is continuing, but the high water levels observed on the Escanaba River this summer have become an obstacle to the project. Dan Weingarten, MDOT communications representative for the Superior Region, said that these water levels have delayed plans to build a temporary access road on the Escanaba River.

“They still have not been able to work on the temporary access road … because the river level is still high,” he said. Once it is completed, this road will be used to place materials for the construction of a new span of the U.S. 2 and 41 bridge across the Escanaba River.

According to Weingarten, it is still too early to determine the full impact of this delay on the project. However, he noted that there are provisions in the contract between MDOT and Zenith Tech, the project’s prime contractor, for time extensions due to weather delays.

Weingarten also said that work has been proceeding on the E&LS Railroad bridge.

“Next week, they will be placing concrete for footings for the new railroad bridge abutments,” he said.

While there are still no dates set for the Escanaba River bridge’s first scheduled closure, Weingarten said it is expected to take place sometime next month.

“We are still looking at that closure and detour happening sometime in August,” he said.

However, he noted this closure will not conflict with a major event taking place in Escanaba that month.

“We’ll avoid any closure of the bridge … during the entire week of the fair,” Weingarten said.

Weingarten advised drivers to be careful while traveling through the construction zone, as well. Because of an incident on July 7 in which a motorist struck a guardrail, the bridge had to be closed briefly for repairs.

“We’re still cautioning motorists in the area to drive slowly,” he said.

He also reminded drivers to keep the construction zone’s width restriction of eight feet and six inches in mind, and that they should not attempt to drive through this area if they are hauling a load which exceeds this.

“They should seek an alternate route,” Weingarten said.