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Published: Saturday, 8/16/2008

Skyway becoming unglued; Epoxy problem deemed no hazard

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
In September, 2007, workers put the finishing touches on the sheathing around the Veterans' Glass City Skyway. Correcting an attachment problem is likely to jam bridge traffic. The sheathing helps protect stay cables from the weather and adds a decorative feature to the bridge. In September, 2007, workers put the finishing touches on the sheathing around the Veterans' Glass City Skyway. Correcting an attachment problem is likely to jam bridge traffic. The sheathing helps protect stay cables from the weather and adds a decorative feature to the bridge.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Glue that secures stainless-steel sheathing on the Veterans' Glass City Skyway's stay cables has turned out not to be as durable as the bridge's designers or builders expected it to be.

Correcting the problem is likely to jam traffic on the I-280 span across the Maumee River for the next month or so, especially northbound.

That's because a huge crane to be used during repairs will block two of the three northbound lanes, leaving only the right lane open, said Theresa Pollick, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman in Bowling Green.

The southbound left lane also will be closed, starting Monday, for an estimated 30 days.

While the landmark, $237 million bridge opened to traffic more than a year ago, Fru-Con Construction Co. has continued adding finishing touches to the structure since then, most visibly adding dampers to the stay-cable sheaths to cut down on wind-induced vibration.

The sheaths, which help protect the stay cables from the elements and add a decorative, light-reflecting feature to the bridge, were attached with epoxy during the bridge's construction to cradles passing through the bridge's pylon, or central tower.

Mike Gramza, ODOT's project manager, said an April inspection revealed that several sheaths had slipped by as much as an inch from the "overlap sleeve" connecting them to the cradles.

To correct the problem, he said, all the sheaths - 20 on each side of the pylon - will be welded onto the "overlap sleeves," which in turn will be welded to the cradles.

The repair will cost ODOT $375,000. Mr. Gramza said the department's central office will review the situation to decide if ODOT will make any claim against Fru-Con or Figg Bridge Engineers, which designed the bridge, to recover that cost.

The glitch is the third that has arisen concerning the Skyway's stays. During construction, project officials discovered cracks in plastic coatings on the cables themselves. The defective cables were replaced, and ODOT is pursuing a court claim against the manufacturer to recover that cost, Mr. Gramza said.

And twice last winter, sheets of ice broke away from the stay sheaths as they melted and crashed onto the roadway below, damaging several vehicles but causing no reported injuries.

The transportation department hopes new weather gauges being installed on the bridge will help them monitor future ice developments, but so far no preventive measures are planned, Ms. Pollick said.

"We're open to new ideas, as long as they're economically feasible," she said.

Mr. Gramza said the epoxy problem poses no immediate safety hazard but could compromise the stay cables' longevity if not corrected.

Epoxy also was used to seal joints between the bridge's pre-cast concrete deck segments, but as each span was completed it was then structurally reinforced with steel cables to hold the structure together. Mr. Gramza said the epoxy in the deck no longer bears any structural load - it is "only there for waterproofing."

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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