Construction of Baldwin Street Bridge adapts to changing environment

WORLD OF FORMS: Workers from Toebe Construction remove the forms which held the piers of the new Baldwin Street Bridge in place during construction. The removal of the forms is a major step in construction which will be completed before work concludes for the season. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

WORLD OF FORMS: Workers from Toebe Construction remove the forms which held the piers of the new Baldwin Street Bridge in place during construction. The removal of the forms is a major step in construction which will be completed before work concludes for the season. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS — Crews from contractor Toebe Construction are back at work building the new Baldwin Street Bridge after the project took a brief hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday. The construction process is continuing despite a hydrodynamic kerfuffle over the weekend.

The crews worked through Wednesday of last week preparing the first two piers of the new bridge. When they returned to work Monday, they found that one of the coffer dams was filling with water after the Muskegon River rose several feet and debris compromised a turbidity curtain, a plastic wall intended to calm the waters around the coffer dam.

Some workers endeavored to drain the coffer dam on the east side of the river while others worked at removing the forms which held the concrete pier on the west side of the river in place during construction. The overflowing river, while a nuisance, should not have a significant impact on the progress of the bridge, according to Jeremy Johnson, project superintendent. Toebe crews will continue to remove the forms, an important step in the pier construction process, over the next few days.

The forms are not unlike those used in pouring a concrete basement wall, except in this case they are much larger, said Roger Schneidt, Deputy Director of the Big Rapids Department of Public Works.

“If you looked at the forms used in the bridge, other than the scale, they function the same,” he said. “The forms we have out there are probably about 12 feet by 12 feet and 6 to 8 inches wide – quite an extensive sheet of metal.”

At a previous meeting of the Big Rapids City Commission, Schneidt delivered a report which said construction was trailing several weeks behind the timeline discussed at the beginning of the project. However, the changing timeline for construction prior to the end of work for the winter does not mean the project is behind on the expected July 1 opening date for the new bridge, he added.

“The next 10 days look really good for construction and we don’t foresee any change in the weather,” he said. “If the weather continues to reach near 40 degrees during the day, we’ll keep on working and that will get us back on schedule.”

The end of work for the season is set for Dec. 28, according to the timeline submitted to the Michigan Department of Transportation. However, there is a lot of work that can be done in the intervening month, Schneidt said.

“The timeline we have is tentative,” he said.  “MDOT requested it so they know the construction plan is thought out and how the procedure will progress from one item of work to the next.”

If necessary and possible, construction on the bridge could continue beyond the estimated end of work for the season.

“If we can work through, or at least partway through, January, I’m sure the contractor will do that,” Schneidt said.

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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