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Published: Monday, 10/4/2010

Skyway workers to be remembered

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

More than 6 years have passed since four ironworkers died in a crane collapse at the Veterans' Glass City Skyway construction site, and it has been more than 3 years since a separate accident killed a carpenter there.

But at long last, the construction of a memorial to those five men that also will honor the hundreds of others who worked on the landmark bridge project is about to begin.

“It's been a long time coming, but it'll be a good thing to see it finally there,” said Dan Morey, business representative for the Ohio and Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters, one of two local unions whose members died in the accidents. The two unions are providing volunteers to help build the memorial.

Its centerpiece will be a kinetic sculpture atop four pillars with two 24-foot arms that will spin in the wind. The sculpture will straddle a plaza in Tribute Park, just west of the Skyway's East Toledo end, on land formerly occupied by I-280 ramps no longer needed once the $237 million bridge opened in 2007.

Beneath the sculpture will be a marker honoring the bridge's builders, especially the five who died: Arden Clark II, Robert Lipinski, Michael Moreau, and Michael Phillips, all ironworkers, and Andrew Burris, a carpenter.

The four ironworkers, all members of Toledo-based Local 55, were killed Feb. 16, 2004, when a gantry crane used to position pre-cast concrete bridge sections collapsed while it was being repositioned. Four other men were seriously injured in the accident.

Mr. Burris, a member of Carpenters Local 1138, died April 19, 2007, when a work platform broke loose from the outside of the bridge and fell 82 feet to the ground in North Toledo.

Fru-Con Construction Corp., the Ballwin, Mo.-based general contractor for the project, was assessed fines totaling $430,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace-safety violations related to the accidents, fines that were reduced during ensuing negotiations by $25,000. The contractor, now known as Bilfinger Berger Civil Inc., also paid out at least $11.25 million in wrongful-death settlements to three of the men's survivors.

The memorial sculpture's design was approved in early 2006 by a public task force that had previously served as a citizens' review board for Skyway details. The task force accepted its Tribute Committee's recommendation of a design by Chicago artist Evan Lewis in part because the design would allow the workers' friends and relatives to participate in its construction.

John Crandall, the Tribute Committee's chairman, said the sculpture, the arms of which will pivot 28 feet above the ground and reach a top height of 40 feet, will be brought to Toledo from Mr. Lewis' studio in pieces and assembled here in about two weeks, with Local 55 members participating.

Local 1138 members, meanwhile, will assist in building the structure's concrete pillars, he said.

“We'll get some guys out there to set the columns,” Mr. Morey said, “especially the guys who knew Andy, or who worked on the bridge.”

Mr. Crandall said he expects the sculpture to be erected by mid-November, but a dedication ceremony won't be held until April 28 — National Workers' Memorial Day — by which time all of the site's landscaping, light posts, and benches are to be in place.

The precisely number of light posts and benches depends on the success of a final fund-raising push that will start within a few weeks, the Tribute Committee chairman said.

An Ohio Department of Transportation contractor graded and seeded the monument site and built its driveway and parking lot as part of the state's project to convert the nearby Craig Memorial Bridge for use by local traffic. The state also removed unneeded roadway from the area that was I-280's Maumee River crossing before the Skyway opened. But the monument itself is to be paid for entirely from donations.

So far, Mr. Crandall said, about $140,000 has been raised, with about $20,000 more needed. The Tribute Committee will be selling plaza bricks for $50 and paving stones for $150 while accepting landscaping grants for $250, he said.

The span of more than three years between the bridge's opening and the memorial's construction is reasonable in light of the work that had to be done to get the site ready, Mr. Crandall and Mr. Morey said.

“I'm just tickled to death, it's moving right along now,” Mr. Crandall said.

The department of transportation project to reclaim unneeded portions of the former I-280 right of way has included rearranging traffic on the Craig bridge to create a wide bike lane on its downstream side, and filling and contouring the former freeway trench through North Toledo into a linear park with a walking and cycling trail linking the Craig with Greenbelt Parkway.

Adjacent land formerly occupied by the Summit Street and Front Street interchanges also is being converted into parkland.

Theresa Pollick, an ODOT spokesman in Bowling Green, said park construction should conclude next month, but the state has a two-year maintenance contract for the trees and other landscaping.

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



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