The bridge is the size of two football fields end to end -- 650 feet in all. That's the scope of a project currently underway on the southbound lane of Interstate 91 in Windsor. The two bridges there -- simply put -- are getting old.
"There is not much they can do to the steel, it just has to be replaced. It is starting to fatigue," said Dennis Hartford with Lane Construction Corporation.
The steel is being replaced by cement girders. "There are five girders per span and 20 girders per bridge," Hartford said. A quarter of them have already been hoisted into place. Five more girders will be brought in this week, weighing 98 tons a piece. And while they are positioned into place, Route 44 will be closed to all traffic for about three days.
"You can't have traffic going under. It is going to be busy," Hartford said.
Starting Wednesday, traffic heading into town on this section of road will have to take about a 20 minute detour. Delays can also be expected on the Interstate above. "We do a rolling road block up on interstate 91 to slow the traffic down to give us the time. It take us about 20 minutes to bring a girder out, get it hooked up and get it swung out of the way and move the truck out of the way," Hartford said.
"The road will be open to emergency traffic, fire, police -- and ambulance will all be able to get through," said Windsor Fire Chief Mark Kirko.
That is except during the short window when the girders are actually in the air. "We have already made arrangements with the town on the other side, in West Windsor, for having them assist us with an immediate response if we get a fire in that area," Kirko added.
They are arrangements that do not necessarily come to mind for construction projects. But Vermont, like many states, will be seeing more of them. Along with the two bridges being replaced in Windsor, which have a construction price tag of more than $20 million, four bridges in Brattleboro are being rebuilt with a $60 million tab. Two bridges in Milton will total $23 million. And three bridge projects in Waterbury will cost about $10 million -- they will be completed over the next three years. According to an in-depth review by the Associated Press, there are more than 7,700 bridges across the country in similar shape.
"A lot of the bridges, you know, they were built back in the 50's and 60's and they have outlived their lifespan and they are being replaced now," Hartford said. And those replacements will cause delays along the way. But improved safety is the ultimate benefit on the other side.
Site work for the Brattleboro bridges is expected to begin this winter. Officials say that project will be the largest bridge replacement project in the state's history.
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