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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

King bridge arches in better condition than anticipated

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

But while the project's progress prompted hope among Huntington Tall Ships Toledo organizers that it might be good news for the July 16-20 festival, senior bridge engineer Dale Rupert said it is unlikely the bridge's closed lanes will reopen for the event.

“It's going to be close, but there is just too much to be done,” Mr. Rupert said yesterday. Project managers “don't think the [drawbridge safety] gates will be in. They're not even sure the whole roadway will be in.”

A Toledo police official said he hopes festival-goers will avoid the King bridge regardless of how many lanes are open, because the area will be congested and Maumee River traffic will require frequent bridge openings.

“Avoid using that bridge at any time during the [festival] week,” Lt. Gregg Sekela said yesterday during a festival traffic management and security planning meeting.

This month, Mr. Rupert said the eastbound lanes likely wouldn't be finished until the end of July, when reconstruction would shift to the westbound side. That was before crews dug out the sand and gravel fill material to expose the insides of the bridge's concrete arches.

“They were in a lot better shape than we anticipated,” Mr. Rupert said. This week, workers have been refilling the arches with a lightweight concrete material, over which the new roadway will be paved.

The project is now “a week or two” ahead of the previous schedule, Mr. Rupert said.

A full two weeks would put the traffic switch just in time for the tall ships festival, which is expected to lure 20,000 visitors a day downtown.

During the traffic and security meeting, Philip Couture, a festival organizing consultant, said he hopes if the eastbound lanes were finished in time, city officials would tell Kokosing Construction Co., the project contractor, to wait to start work on the westbound side till after the special event.

Mr. Rupert said that even if that rosy schedule could be met, he wasn't sure the city could afford to pay Kokosing to idle its crews for three days.

Lane restrictions are likely to hamper festival attendance at least a little, tall ships coordinator Kelly Rivera said, because Toledoans “are easily discouraged by traffic.” But she said she is confident the city will do the best it can.

“I've always been working under the premise that we're going to be down to one lane” each way on the bridge, Miss Rivera said. “If we get two, that's a bonus.”



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