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Published: Thursday, 10/21/2004

Truss crane work to resume on span

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A truss crane identical to the one involved in a deadly collapse Feb. 16 on the new I-280 bridge project will be used when Fru-Con Inc. resumes construction on the mainline span by week's end, a project source said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation late yesterday announced a news conference for 1 p.m. today at which state and Fru-Con officials will explain the "work-forward" plan for the $220 million project. Completion of the project, designed to replace the aging Craig Memorial lift bridge that carries I-280 over the Maumee, has been delayed at least 18 months because of the Feb. 16 crane accident that killed four construction workers and injured four others.

Joe Rutherford, an ODOT district spokesman, said the re-start date and other details of the plan, including how traffic on I-280 may be affected after construction resumes, will be released at the news conference. ODOT assistant director Rich Martinko and Fru-Con president Matti Jaekel are expected to attend.

A source familiar with the project told The Blade the "LG-1" crane - the twin to the one that collapsed - is an important part of the plan to resume work on the project. Reactivation of the remaining 900-ton, 315-foot-long crane will occur "relatively quickly" and "before next week," the source said.

Project officials said during the summer that resuming work with LG-1 was Fru-Con's preference for completing the bridge's assembly from prefabricated concrete segments. But to allow that to happen, engineers designed modifications to the crane intended to preclude a repeat of the Feb. 16 accident involving the companion "LG-2" crane.

In August, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration found improper anchoring procedures had caused the LG-2 crane's collapse and proposed a $280,000 fine against Fru-Con for "willful violations" of workplace safety regulations. Fru-Con has appealed the findings.

The bridge collapse killed four local ironworkers: Arden Clark, 47, Robert Lipinski, Jr., 44, Mike Moreau, 30, and Mike Phillips, 42. Two other ironworkers and two operating engineers were injured.

Chuck LaFaso, local business agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers, said last night his union is prepared to support the "work-forward" plan.

"We've been at all the meetings with that," he said, adding that he was confident it will be a safe operation "from the information we've been given."

Joe Blaze, business agent for Ironworkers Local 55, could not be reached for comment last night.

The two large cranes, built by Italian manufacturer Paolo di Nicola and erected on site by Fru-Con, had been capable of completing a pair of bridge spans a week while working in tandem. The two cranes had been working in East Toledo on the southern approach spans to the new main bridge when the collapse occurred.

The eight-month suspension of mainline work, combined with anticipated slower progress using a single large crane instead of two, has pushed back the project's estimated completion date from August, 2005, until "early 2007." A smaller crane used to assemble entrance and exit ramp spans was returned to operation April 3.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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