State officials believe the rest of the old Platte River bridge south of Fremont will be gone within the next month, and the remaining lanes of the new bridge will open next spring.
“I'm pleased to report that the U.S. Highway 77 Platte River bridge expansion and improvement project continues to move toward full completion,” State Sen. Charlie Janssen said in an email to the Tribune.
“The lead contractor finished the temporary platform that will be used to remove the remainder of the former Platte River bridge. Removal is expected to be finished by early December,” Janssen wrote.
“The tangent section of the temporary bridge is out there,” said Micky Jacobs, project manager for the Nebraska Department of Roads. “They still have to put what are called ‘finger bridges’ out to facilitate the removal of the existing piers. There are five existing piers that still need to be removed.”
Work was under way on one of the finger bridges on Monday.
“That will facilitate the removal of two of the four remaining girders. Then they’ll work on removal of two piers,” he said.
Those finger bridges will then be removed and others will be installed to allow removal of the last two girders.
Due to environmental regulations, workers have to be out of the water by Feb. 1, but Jacobs anticipates being finished in the river well ahead of that.
“They’re working 50 hours a week. ... I myself personally believe, at the rate they’re going now, we’re looking at the middle of December, they’ll be completely out of the water and hauling the bridges to another project,” he said.
Work began a year ago to remove the south half of the Motter Memorial Bridge using a temporary bridge stretching about halfway across the river. Temporary bridges are allowed to go only 800 feet from either bank at a time in order to keep the other half of the river open.
“Last year the difficulty was that a huge amount of water came in,” Jacobs said. “There was a bunch of rain in Colorado, and the southern channel of the Platte sent us a lot of water. This year we have the usual fluctuations associated with the Platte River, but it hasn’t caused any issues with the contractor.”
Concrete work, meanwhile, is moving right along, Jacobs said.
“I would say we’re looking at about Oct. 20 they should be done with the concrete work and ready for the asphalt shoulder,” he said.
“I know people are going to get disappointed when they see the concrete and the shoulder done, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to open any additional lanes this year, primarily due to the temperatures that are going to come in with the season,” he said. “The striping is very temperature sensitive ... that is going to be the controlling factor.
“Plus,” he added, “we’ve got some grading to do, which can’t get started until the temporary bridge is totally removed (after the old bridge has been removed). When the temporary bridge is out, then the grader can come in and start shaping the north bank. We have to build a detention cell there for the contaminants that come off the bridge deck and things like that, but if the ground’s frozen they can’t grade, so that might take into next year also.”
The two northbound lanes of the new bridge opened to two-way traffic in July 2013. Officials anticipate the remaining lanes opening next spring.
“The Nebraska Department of Roads informs me that completion of the entire project is expected by mid to late May,” Janssen said. “This is welcome news as it would mean the project will finish eight months ahead of schedule.”
“Our project completion date, by plan, was Jan. 31, 2016,” Jacobs said. “Right now we have 92 percent by dollar value of the project done with only 69 percent of the time used. We’re doing pretty good.”
Workers will move the “taper” section from the Boulevard Avenue intersection further south to reopen the intersection as soon as possible, Jacobs said.
“We’re going to move that out onto the project so people have four lanes all the way up to Boulevard Avenue,” he explained. “People have been really tolerant with us there, because we had to close that intersection off and we had to prohibit some turns just for public safety. We want to get that intersection opened as badly as anybody, so as soon as we can we’re going to move that lane closure.
“People will see some action on the bridge itself in the next couple weeks,” Jacobs said.
The Roads Department’s bridge division and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are using a section of the bridge as a “test plot” for different kinds of deck overlays.
There is also a Saunders County project going on nearby to repair County Road Y/Riverview Road from just west of U.S. 77 for two miles west to the Whitetail Run golf course.
While the county project and bridge work are not directly related, Jacobs warned motorists to be cautious in the area.
“It is going to be congested there. If people can use a little extra care coming through there, we always appreciate that,” he said.
Cramer and Associates Inc. of Grimes, Iowa, is the contractor for the project, which began in November 2010.