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The largest highway project in Ohio history passed another milestone yesterday as workers cast the last of 3,045 concrete segments for the new I-280 bridge over the Maumee River.
Shortly after 9:15 a.m., a cement mixer rolled into the Fru-Con Construction Corp. casting yard on Front Street, north of the partially built bridge, and began discharging a thick, lumpy batch of concrete into a holding bucket suspended off the ground by a crane.
A short time later, the crane slowly lifted the bucket over a huge segment mold, and two workers guided it into place.
One of them opened the bucket's funnel-shaped bottom, and concrete began pouring over the mold's epoxy-covered steel reinforcing frame.
"They'll have a steady stream of trucks coming in to fill that," said Joe Rutherford, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 2 office.
"This is a nice day. It's a good milestone for the Maumee River Crossing."
The six-lane, cable-stay bridge, which Mr. Rutherford said remains on schedule for completion in October, 2006, will carry I-280 about 130 feet above the Maumee River and replace the Craig Memorial Bridge, a 1950s drawbridge.
The segment cast yesterday was one of 42, 85-ton triangle-shaped "delta frames" to which the bridge's 20 stay cables will be attached to hold up the span's sides across the river.
Once the giant mold was filled with concrete - a task that took about 90 minutes - workers used vibrating devices to fill gaps, smooth the material, and level the surface.
Mr. Rutherford said it would take about a month for the concrete segment to cure.
Some of the pieces will remain in the yard until August, 2006, and some of the molds used to make them will be kept on site in case any sections need to be replaced during construction.
Fru-Con and ODOT plan to resume construction of overhead sections of the Veterans' Glass City Skyway by early June.
That work has been halted since Feb. 16, 2004, when a horizontal truss crane collapsed, killing four ironworkers and injuring four other workers.
The casting yard, a 40-acre site once occupied by Interlake Iron and Toledo Coke, is tucked away from the partially built bridge, out of sight of most motorists.
But more than half the project's $220 million budget has been spent there, providing the bridge's backbone plus steady jobs for up to 140 construction workers over the past three years.
Construction began in March, 2002, and the first segment was cast at the yard Aug. 29, 2002.
"I've never been in one place this long," said Pat Huntermark, a foreman with Local 886 of the Cement Masons' Union.
He said he feels a sense of accomplishment for his part in constructing the bridge, which is expected to transform Toledo's skyline.
"My kids are excited about it," he said. "We live close and drive by it a lot, and it's something to be proud of."
Jerry Bugbee, a 27-year member of the Cement Masons' Union who has worked at the casting yard since late 2002, expressed similar feelings.
"To me, it's an honor ... to construct a monument to this city and to have something to pass on to the next generation of cement masons," he said.
"I'm anxious to move on to the next project."
For Mr. Bugbee and some of his colleagues, the next project already has begun.
For the past two months, a crew of about 20 Fru-Con workers at the East Toledo yard has been casting concrete modules for the new State Rt. 108 bridge that's being built this year over the Maumee River in Napoleon.
That span is being built in the same manner as the I-280 bridge, with 117 concrete sections weighing between 40 tons and 70 tons to be cast in Toledo and trucked one by one to the Henry County construction site. So far, 19 segments have been cast.
The $17.4 million bridge is to be opened by Oct. 8.
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