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Published: Saturday, 2/23/2008

2-week closure of King Bridge starts Monday

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

What city officials hope will be the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge's last long-term shutdown for a very long time is scheduled to begin Monday.

Starting at 9 a.m., the bridge will be closed to all traffic for an estimated two weeks. During most of that time, the concrete deck surface on its drawspans will be poured and allowed to harden.

The shutdown has been lengthened from a previously announced 10 or 11 days because of some steel repairs that have become necessary, Kristin Cousino, the project engineer for the city's Division of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor, said yesterday.

Part of the mechanism that meshes the two drawspan leaves together was damaged during a bridge-lowering sometime last year, Ms. Cousino said. Repairing it will take at least two days, she said.

After that, project officials hope contractor National Engineering can get going right away on the concrete deck pour, which will be done in two shots - one for each drawspan.

The bridge is scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. March 10, but Ms. Cousino said that date is vulnerable to the weather.

It could take longer for the concrete to cure if the weather is cold, she said, and officials would prefer to wait to pour the concrete until a couple of consecutive days of above-freezing temperatures are forecast.

But they can't wait until spring for nice weather.

The city faces a March 15 deadline from the U.S. Coast Guard to reopen the Maumee River to navigation, though last year officials were able to wangle several extensions because no ships came up the river until early April.

Tom Cousino, owner of the Navy Bistro and other restaurants in The Docks complex in International Park and no relation to the project engineer, said the impact of this winter's bridge closings on his businesses has been "minimal."

He praised city officials' effort to keep East Toledo merchants apprised of the project's progress.

"Last year was more blind-siding," Mr. Cousino said, referring to a King shutdown that ended up dragging on for more than two months when construction problems arose.

"This year, we've got both the Craig [Memorial] Bridge and the new I-280 bridge open so people can get around. Our customers have been very loyal, and they're still finding ways to get to us."

Mr. Cousino said the Navy Bistro will resume its Sunday brunches, which were suspended last winter during the two-month bridge closing, on March 16 - one day after the river-reopening deadline.

Officially, the $48 million bridge renovation won't be complete until sometime in May, but officials said early this month that all five lanes should be restored to traffic shortly after the reopening to vehicles next month.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.


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