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Stimulus bridge project begins

A bridge worker ties off the rebar for the project. The mint green color is an epoxy coating that protects the steel from river water and salt that might eventually erode the supporting braces for the concrete. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
The County 9 bridge project in northern Hubbard County is progressing despite periodic rains. It will be completed sometime in September. If the weather cooperates, workers should start pouring the bridge deck next week. Then rains will be a factor. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 2

A bridge project over the Schoolcraft River in northern Hubbard County is progressing despite periodic torrential rains.

"We can pretty much resume as soon as the rain stops," said Hubbard County inspector Les Anderson. "So far we've only lost a little over a day on the project."

That tune will change in about 10 days when workers begin pouring concrete for the bridge deck on the County Road 9 structure.

Crews hope for sunny weather.

This week workers were tying off rebar and creating the painstaking falsework for the bridge deck.

Falsework is temporary scaffolding made of plywood and steel that holds the bridge up until it's self-supporting.

Concrete will be poured into the forms and as the cement cures, the falsework will be gradually removed from underneath.

"It's like building a box for your toys," said county engineer Dave Olsonawski.

The bridge is 100 percent paid for with federal stimulus funds. Because the project was already designed and ready to go, Hubbard County was able to take advantage of early monies that became available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Olsonawski said although $600,000 was allotted, bids for the bridge came in around $430,000. Hubbard County doesn't keep the excess money, though.

A second bridge, over County 39 near Laporte, is in the design phases to capitalize on more stimulus funds, hopefully by fall, Olsonawski said.

Although the county could use stimulus money on road repairs, Olsonawski said the bridges are easier to design quickly.

The County 9 bridge has 20 hollow pilings driven 60 feet deep into the ground as support. Then concrete is poured down each piling.

Thirty-foot steel I-beams will support the deck.

Mint green rebar supports the structure throughout.

Anderson said the mint green color is an epoxy coating that prevents river water and atmospheric salt from rusting the steel.

The bridge should be completed in September, he said.

The project has necessitated a detour around the roadway.

"The Blue Moon Saloon has been pretty good," Anderson said of the lounge on the west end of the project that is a popular spot for ATV riders and north end residents.

"But I'm sure they'd like to see it done."