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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

Towers rising, work proceeds despite setback

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Electricians Kendra Allen and Ken Rettis (back to camera) rewire the controls under the eastside draw so the span can be operated from the new southeast tower. Electricians Kendra Allen and Ken Rettis (back to camera) rewire the controls under the eastside draw so the span can be operated from the new southeast tower.
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With installation of new draw spans for the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge now scheduled for next winter, work crews are beefing up the old ones to last 12 months longer than previously expected.

Construction also continues on parts of the $33 million project not affected by a delay in the new spans' fabrication that city officials blame on an engineering error.

To passing motorists, the most visible sign of that progress is the rise of new control towers at the draw spans' northwest and southeast corners.

Kristin Cousino, the project engineer for Toledo's division of streets, bridges, and harbor, said the new primary control tower on the southeast corner - the corner closest to International Park - will be completed in time for the bridge to reopen to Maumee River boat traffic on March 20.

The alternate tower, at the northwest corner, should also be finished by then, but it is a lower priority, Ms. Cousino said.

TAS Inc., the electrical subcontractor for the proj-ect, is rewiring the old draw spans so they can be controlled from the new tower. That task wouldn't have been necessary had the replacement spans been delivered in time for installation this winter.

Other workers have replaced steel repair plates on one side of the draw spans' grated decks with new sections of steel grating and have installed new bracing in the draw spans' downriver half so that the spans can be replaced one half at a time - the upriver half first - next winter without any long-term closings for vehicular traffic.

Eight closings of up to 14 hours during nights and weekends are expected.

Eliminating the steel plates and other excess metal in the spans has reduced their weight by several tons, which will "allow for better motion and control of the lift spans" during the upcoming navigation season, Ms. Cousino said in a memo last week to city administrators.

"These guys are doing a lot of work to keep it rolling along," Bill Franklin, the city's director of public service, said during a recent tour of the bridge.

"Structurally, we've been very conservative, and we should see better performance of the bridge than last year."

National Engineering & Contracting Co. of Strongsville, Ohio, was to begin installation of the new draw spans for the 95-year-old bridge last month. But the spans' fabrication by an Eau Claire, Wis., firm was delayed by a design flaw found when the company began preparing detailed shop drawings.

Components for the draw spans are now expected to be delivered to Toledo next month and in April, after which the spans will be assembled here. City officials asked the U.S. Coast Guard for permission to suspend Maumee River navigation this summer so the spans could be installed then, but were turned down.

Attorneys representing the city and design firm HNTB have been meeting to discuss responsibility for an estimated $2 million in cost overruns that are expected because of the spans' delayed delivery, Mr. Franklin said.

"The stance [the city is] still taking is that we are not liable for any of those costs," he said.

TAS Inc. is not the same as TAS Electronics, operator of several local car-stereo stores. Speaking while working on the bridge's wiring, electrician Kendra Allen recalled that a lady once saw the TAS Inc. truck and asked for help with her car stereo. "I told her we weren't the same company. She wasn't too happy about that," Ms. Allen said.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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