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EAST CHICAGO — Work crews at the new Cline Avenue Bridge are finishing installation of the piers that will support the 6,236-foot bridge, and have begun putting up the segments of its surface, with the goal of opening it to traffic in nine months.

"We're on schedule; we plan to open up in January 2020," said Terry Velligan, the general manager for bridge owner United Bridge Partners, on Monday.

The first of 685 bridge segments went up March 21, Velligan said, with three since then. At full speed, four of the pre-cast concrete segments, most of which are 10-feet long and weigh as much as 85 tons, will be lifted into place by crane daily.

About 100 workers are on site now, said Jay Rohleder, the project manager for construction company Figg Bridge Group. A total of about 300 will work on the project in all its phases.

The privately owned toll bridge will have a 12-foot lane of traffic in each direction and 9-foot shoulders on each side. It will rise 100 feet above the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, the same height as the original bridge, which was closed in 2009. The full project has an estimated cost of  $150 million.

In addition to final work on several of the 29 piers, crews continue to cast the concrete bridge segments in a large building near the west end of the project. Each segment is cast for its particular place in the bridge, which in addition to its vertical rise curves horizontally through the industrial landscape.

"All that geometry's been cast in," Rohleder said of the unique segments.

About two-thirds of the 685 segments have been cast, and are being moved into staging position by a 110-ton straddle lift — a four-wheeled, long-legged vehicle designed for the task. Segments will be erected from west to east.

Work is also being done at the east end of the bridge, where the it will be connected to an existing steel structure that runs about 2,700 feet to ground level.

When the bridge opens, Velligan said the toll for an automobile will be $2.25 using an electronic transponder, with an open-road toll gantry at the western end of the bridge. Ten cents of each toll will go to the city of East Chicago for its infrastructure needs. 

"Our next big thing is to start putting the toll system in," Velligan said.

Velligan said the bridge will help take truck traffic off local roads, reducing congestion and idling time. He also said businesses have contacted him about the new access to northern Lake County.

"A lot of businesses will start to look at this and say, now we can get into Lake County," Velligan said.

United Bridge Partners projects 10,000 vehicles per day will use the bridge when it opens.

"In the future, if the traffic counts grow to the point it needs a second structure, we're set up to be able to do that," Rohleder said.

The public will be invited to the main project site, 219 Riley Road, for one-hour "Sidewalk Talks" that provide a view of the project and description of its progress from Velligan and Rohleder. The events are scheduled for 9 to 10 a.m. on eight Saturdays: April 27, May 18, June 22, July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16. The June and August events will include the opportunity to sign the interior of one of the bridge segments as a "time capsule" for the project.

For more information, visit www.clineave.com.

Gallery: Cline Avenue Bridge

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Transportation Reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.