Highway 26 expansion 'certainly on schedule'
JANESVILLE Much of southern Wisconsin is languishing in the hot, dry summer, including grass planted in the new ditches of Highway 26 between Milton and Janesville.
The highway itself, along with many construction projects in Wisconsin this summer, is moving along at a cracking pace.
"I won't say we're ahead of schedule," Project Manager Lance Wagner said Thursday night while crews were preparing to set the 35.5-ton concrete beams that will support the Wright Road bridge. "But we are certainly on schedule."
On Monday, traffic will flow into two lanes near McCormick Drive, and work will start on the median. Currently, both lanes of traffic use the northbound lane.
The deadline to reopen the southbound lane is Aug. 8.
When both lanes are moving, congestion should clear along that stretch, Project Manager Tom Wickus said. Work also is wrapping up on McCormick Drive, where a handful of businesses have been weathering interruptions to traffic access linked to the road project.
Workers now are focused mainly on restoration and signage work along McCormick Drive, Wickus said.
Northbound traffic will stay on its current route, where a temporary barrier will continue to block access to McCormick Drive while workers complete the new median and left turn lanes, Wickus said. Northbound traffic can access McCormick Drive by detouring west on Wright Road and taking County Y south to McCormick Drive.
Traffic was switched this week from the western temporary lanes on County Highway Y to the new eastern lanes. The change has "greatly improved" access between McCormick Drive and County Y, project officials said.
Some stops and starts occurred late Wednesday and Thursday evenings as workers installed the concrete beams that will hold the bridge decks over Highway 26 at Wright Road.
Workers set seven beams over the two lanes of northbound traffic Wednesday night. They set the beams' mates over the southbound lanes Thursday.
The beams on the Wright Road bridge are 91 feet long and weigh 35.5 tons each.
Around 8 p.m. Thursday, six semitractor trailers idled in line along the southbound lane of Highway 26 near the Janesville Animal Medical Center, 5021 N. Highway 26. The seventh beam was on its way.
While the drivers parked alongside the road, Workers installed posts and strung safety lines along the top of each beam. During installation, workers wore harnesses clipped to the safety lines.
County Materials poured the beams at a site near Green Bay, Wagner said. They cured for eight days before making the 170-mile trip to Janesville.
The beams were made in matched sets, Wagner said. Each beam had to be set in order; they were not interchangeable.
The beams for the Wright Road bridge are small compared to the set previously installed across Highway 26 at Townline Road, Wagner said. Those are 114 feet long and needed two cranes to be installed. The 91-foot beams were small enough for one crane to handle.
Even the crane had to be constructed on site, Wagner said. It is moved in four pieces on a flatbed.
Moved into position, the crane assembles "like a giant Erector Set," he said.
Workers attached two cables from the crane to each beam. The crane lifted the beam next to its mate, and two workers grabbed it and moved it into its precise location. The beams were set three inches apart to allow for swelling in the heat.
Once the beams are set, Wagner will take survey photos of them to determine the exact elevation of the beams. Engineers then will design the bridge deck based on those measurements.
A temporary wooden deck will be placed atop the beams until the concrete deck cures. A similar deck is in place at the Townline Road bridge.
Crews stopped traffic for as long as 15 minutes at a time to set each beam. Workers let traffic clear during the time between setting the beams. Deputies from the Rock County Sheriff's Office helped control traffic.