EAST CHICAGO — The concrete and cables making up the new Cline Avenue Bridge are crossing Riley Road on their eastward path across the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Crews have erected more than 120 of the 685 segments that will make up the bridge's superstructure, which will stretch more than 1 mile once complete.
A group of interested Region residents visited the site Saturday morning for a description of the project and its progress from Jay Rohleder, the project manager for Figg Bridge Group, and Terry Velligan, general manager for bridge owner United Bridge Partners.
"It's moving forward," Velligan said. "It's exciting to think about its opening in early 2020."
Attendees at the monthly Sidewalk Talk heard Rohleder describe the bridge and process to build it. Crews are installing segments of about 10 feet in length on 29 piers, which were poured after foundations were constructed beginning in 2017.
Each of the bridge segments, cast precisely to follow the horizontal curves and vertical elevations of the bridge, weighs between 60 and 90 tons. The single-cell box girders are made of a dense, high-strength concrete.
"It's not your conventional, poured-in-place, light-reinforcement deck," Rohleder said. A system of steel cables binds the pre-stressed segments of the balanced cantilever bridge together, forming a system of "tendons" that reinforce the deck and allow the bridge to absorb lateral pressure.
The cell in each girder will allow access for maintenance crews, and offer the opportunity for use by utilities, including telecommunications firms' fiber optic cables.
Hunter Collins of Valparaiso was among the attendees. Collins works in transportation infrastructure project management — currently on a light rail project in Boston — but wanted to take the opportunity Saturday to view a project he called "fascinating."
"I always get a thrill out of seeing the segmental bridges," he said. "It's a very interesting style of construction."
Peter Hastings' reaction was the same: "Fascinating."
"When you drive over a bridge like this, you're thinking steel," he said. After Saturday's presentation, "you realize what you're driving on is a lot of wires and concrete."
The new, privately owned toll bridge will have a 12-foot lane of traffic in each direction and nine-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 project has an estimated cost of $150 million.
Velligan said the new bridge will help get traffic off local streets, benefit area businesses and serve generally as a "gateway to Lake County."
When the bridge opens, Velligan said the toll for an automobile will be $2.25, with an open-road toll gantry accepting both E-ZPass and I-Pass at the western end of the bridge. The toll for semis will be $4.50. Ten cents of each toll will go to the city of East Chicago for its infrastructure needs.
United Bridge Partners projects 10,000 vehicles per day will use the bridge when it opens.
For more information on the project and future Sidewalk Talks, visit www.clineave.com.