Warmer Temps to Intensify Work on Four Bears Bridge

Sat March 27, 2004 - Midwest Edition

NEW TOWN, ND (AP) Construction managers working on the new Four Bears Bridge will step up their efforts once warmer weather sets in.

Work on the $55-million project was curtailed by cold and ice in December. State officials have said it is the largest bridge project ever undertaken by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

The bridge is replacing a structure that has been deemed too narrow for modern traffic. The new bridge will have two 12-ft.-wide (3.6 m) driving lanes with 8-ft.-wide (2.4 m) shoulders, along with a 10-ft.-wide (3 m) walkway featuring an informational display.

Work started last May, and the bridge is scheduled to open to traffic in June 2005.

Original plans called for five of the 14 large piers to be in place by now, but only one is nearing completion. Cam Green, a project manager for Ballwin, MO-based Fru-Con Construction Corp., said he has a plan for avoiding delay penalties in the construction contract.

“We’ll throw more money at it,” he said.

Green plans to have up to 180 workers on double shifts six days a week once ice on Lake Sakakawea melts away. That could come this month.

“It’s not cost-effective to fight with [the ice],” Green said.

Once completed, the massive piers will shoulder 450 concrete deck segments strung from one pier to the next with heavy cable.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Jerry Krieg, project manager for Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, the engineering firm hired by the state to oversee the project. “It’s going to take a little luck.”

A steel building to enclose the concrete casting machines was completed this winter. Green said he hopes to have each of the three machines manufacturing four of the 52-ft.-wide (15.8 m) segments a week. The casting operation restarted ahead of schedule last month.

A record low level for Lake Sakakawea also is hampering some plans. A dock for construction barges and tugboats is now several feet above the water and will have to be rebuilt.

Fru-Con brought in engineers and company officials earlier this winter to provide advice about and direction for resolving the scheduling and engineering problems.

“The end goal is not in jeopardy,” Green said. “There are plenty of things we can do.”

Walt Peterson, the Williston district engineer for the Department of Transportation, said Fru-Con officials have assured the state the project will be done on time. If not, the firm faces $5,000 in penalties for each day the project is delayed after June 1, 2005.

“They had all winter to look at the operation and figure out what they have to change and what they need to do to get it back on track,” Peterson said.