IMAGES: First of three towers topped off for downtown bridge
Officials say construction remains on schedule for the new downtown bridge to open to traffic in January of 2016.
Monday, April 6th 2015, 11:42 AM EDT
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- The Ohio River Bridges Project has reached another milestone.
Work on the downtown bridge has reached new heights -- 230 feet to be exact. That's the height of tower number 5, the bridge support closest to Jeffersonville.
It's the first of the downtown bridge towers to be finished, or topped off.
The accomplishment comes after two years of work, both above and below the surface.
Crews have also installed four of the bridge's 88 stay cables that will support the structure.
"The most dramatic elements are to come. As these towers start topping out, these cables start going in, and you'll start seeing the bridge really take shape," said Andy Barber, project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Journeyman Carpenter Carl Waters sees the view from hundreds of feet above the Ohio River every day, 12 hours a day. It's clear Waters' nerves are as steady as his hands.
"It's just another day at work, really," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Despite the calm demeanor, Waters admits it is dangerous work.
"Potential of falling everywhere you go. As long as you're trained and know what you're doing, it's alright," said Waters.
The other two towers will be topped off this summer. Then the pace really picks up.
"You'll see 45 foot of bridge being put on, hopefully, a week. I think that's the aggressive schedule we've got going on," said Jeremiah Littleton, the section engineer.
One reason crews are able to finish the deck work so quickly is the use of pre-fabricated steel supports. The supports are built downriver, shipped by barge to the construction site, lifted into place by a crane, and then attached.
"There's a lot of pieces ready to go up, and be put together really quickly," said Littleton.
The crews have been working throughout winter, despite the cold and snow. In fact, about the only conditions that shut down work are swift current and high water.
"It will actually mess with you a little bit. Make you get off balance if you look down at the river and the tower moves a little bit. It will actually make you a little dizzy," said carpenter Waters.
Construction will also stop during Thunder, and on Derby weekend to minimize traffic problems.
All is on track for a Jan. 2016 finish.
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