WEBER CITY — Motorists who travel to and from Weber City will have to wait a few months longer for the bridge construction to conclude.
Michelle Earl, communications manager for VDOT’s Bristol District, told the Times News on Wednesday that the expected completion timeframe for the Route 23 bridge replacement project has been pushed back to late fall 2019 rather than summer 2019, as previously projected.
Why the delay?
The delay was caused by wet weather in April and by a time-of-year restriction for work within the North Fork of the Holston River due to threatened and endangered species.
Earl said crews need to work in the river to construct cofferdams — watertight enclosures from which water is pumped to expose the bottom of a body of water and permit construction of piers — but because of the environmental restrictions, in-stream work was prohibited between April 1 and Aug. 31.
“The contractor was working inside an already-constructed cofferdam (in accordance with the permits to work in the river) in mid-April,” Earl said. “However, heavy rains around that timeframe caused high water and damaged recently built cofferdams. It was determined the needed repairs couldn't be made to the cofferdams because of the time-of-year restriction. They did the small items available to them, but the bridge construction hinges on repairing/finishing construction of the cofferdams so bridge piers can be constructed.”
To keep construction moving forward, VDOT requested permission from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue working in the river during the April 1-Aug. 31 timeframe.
The agencies agreed to lift the time-of-year restriction on Monday, Earl said, and a crew returned to the site on Tuesday to resume repairing and constructing the cofferdams.
What’s left to do?
As previously reported by the Times News, work on the southbound bridge was completed in August 2018. All current work is focused on replacing the northbound bridge.
After finishing the cofferdams, crews will begin constructing and installing two new piers. At that point, they will begin setting the beams and working on the deck, or roadway.
“The most unknown of building a bridge is the footer system – the piers and abutments,” James Parsons, area construction engineer for VDOT, told the Times News earlier this year. “Once we get those constructed and get up out of the river, it’ll go smoother, we hope.”