Updated: 03/31/2014 7:49 AM
Created: 03/30/2014 5:31 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Major road construction on the Bong Bridge was scheduled to close the westbound lanes on Monday but that was pushed back to May. The delay will help thousands of commuters, but they may not be happy about the cause.
It will take two years and $18 million to reconstruct the deck of the Bong Bridge and repaint the structure. Duluth bound traffic was going to be detoured to the Blatnik Bridge starting Monday, but Mother Nature had different plans.
“The other fact is we're still having winter up here. I mean we sat here last Friday and we have a camera that's pointed at the approach to the Blatnik Bridge. And we watched in a snowstorm three trucks stuck on the approach going up the Blatnik,” WisDOT Project Manager Matt Dickenson said.
Dickenson is leading the Bong Bridge reconstruction, and he said the threat of winter weather was a factor in delaying the construction until May 5.
“We could still have that here in April, the whole month of April,” Dickenson said.
In May the westbound lanes will close so the concrete roadway can be redone. The eastbound lanes to Superior will be reconstructed next summer. Dickenson said that will extend the life of the bridge, but it's not the only improvement planned.
A traffic light at the junction of Highway 2 and Belknap St. will be replaced by a roundabout when the project is finished in late 2015. The change is not always popular at first according to Traffic Engineer Morris Luke.
“So it's like maybe 80 to 90 percent are against it at first, but once they have driven them and get used to them it's a 180 degree shift,” Luke said.
He said roundabouts reduce crashes so well that the numbers speak for themselves.
“Injuries decrease by 76 percent, fatalities by 90 percent so with those stats roundabout safety is huge,” Luke said.
The construction may wait until May, but a Dickenson said a contractor is ready to start painting the bridge structure this week. That would close one lane along the Bong Bridge, but Dickenson said that work depends on the weather too.
“He does not necessarily want to be up there if it's snowing either because that's just an unsafe situation. So he may wait until conditions are a little better to start making those single-lane closures,” Dickenson said.
With or with the construction drivers may want to factor in a little extra time for their commute.
The project will impact a lot of drivers as about 16,000 to 18,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day.
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