Wisconsin to replace three busy bridges ‘on weekends’

| 11/23/2009

When Wisconsin officials say they intend to replace three bridges in Wisconsin’s busiest interchange during three weekends in the spring, they aren’t kidding around.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials announced Thursday, Nov. 19, that they cannot wait the estimated five years to reconstruct the busy Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee despite truck weight restrictions taking effect in August.

The new deadline for replacement is Memorial Day 2010 on the following bridges:

  • Northbound I-894/U.S. 45 through the interchange to north U.S. 45 is currently limited to 30 tons;
  • Southbound U.S. 45 to the eastbound I-94 connector ramp is currently limited to 35 tons; and
  • Northbound I-894/U.S. 45 to the westbound I-94 ramp is currently limited to 40 tons.

Wisconsin DOT spokesman Paul Trombino said requests for construction proposals have gone out. The winning bidder must bring “accelerated construction technologies” to the table, including precasting, to minimize traffic disruptions.

“From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting thing,” Trombino told Land Line.

“We have prescribed very narrow windows for when we have complete closure to replace the structure, and it’s three weekends – one weekend per structure.”

He said weekday traffic may not see any disruption at all.

“On a Friday, they could come through, and at 9 p.m. we would have a shutdown, and if they again came through on Monday after 5 a.m., they would be coming across the new bridge,” he said.

The bridge replacements will be paid for with money left over from the Marquette Interchange, which came in under budget, Trombino said.

OOIDA Regulatory Specialist Joe Rajkovacz, a former Wisconsin resident and former long-hauler, said the expedited schedule will help truckers as well as the Milwaukee commuters.

“It’s pretty cool that they can get this done on weekends,” he said.

Rajkovacz pointed out another interesting aspect of the project. Just a few days prior to the construction announcement, Wisconsin DOT signed a $1 million contract with International Road Dynamics to catch overweight trucks using “weigh in motion” technology on Zoo Interchange ramps.

“That, in and of itself, is worth letting guys know,” he said. “We’re going to have guys violating the law because they believe there’s no way they’re going to be caught. But they’re setting up to catch you, so beware. They wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if they didn’t have people violating the restriction.”

Trombino said the “weigh in motion” will remain on the bridges until the replacement is completed.

“The intent is that we’re still going to utilize those because the actual structural repair won’t take place until we get to the spring,” Trombino told Land Line. “That will really help maintain a pretty good measurement on the structures, making sure we keep the loads that come in over that load restriction off of those structures.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer