Bong Bridge to undergo multi-million dollar facelift

By KBJR News 1

March 19, 2014 Updated Mar 19, 2014 at 9:31 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) - The Richard Ira Bong Bridge may not be as iconic a symbol of the Twin Ports as the Lift Bridge but it has faithfully served commuters for 30 years now.

On March 31st, traffic from Superior to Duluth will halt for a while as the three decade old bridge starts a makeover.

Dan Harrington is a bridge inspector for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

He says examining a structure like the Richard Ira Bong Bridge is a big undertaking.

"I go in the Aspen Aerial and I hang underneath it and you'll also walk it. It takes a good size crew of people to inspect it," said Dan Harrington, WisDOT Bridge Inspector.

Harrington is a Superior native and was part of the construction crew that built the Bong Bridge between 1982 and 1984.

In the direct manner of a construction person, he tells us the Bong went together surprisingly well.

"Things went together pretty good. Nobody got killed building it. That's a big plus on a large structure."

30 years after construction, Harrington's inspections have revealed a little rust on the expansion joints.

So, the bridge will get overhauled in 2014 and 2015.

It'll get new expansion joints, paint and road surfaces.

When work wraps up, it'll also have something many Northlanders are unfamiliar with - a roundabout.

That's being added to increase safety.

"In terms of safety, it reduces the number of fatal crashes by 95 percent. It reduces the injury crashes by 75 percent and overall crashes by 30 to 40 percent," said Matt Dickenson, project engineer.

As construction nears completion in 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will hold learning lessons to show drivers how to handle roundabouts - something that towns like Ashland and Rice Lake already have.

Dan Harrington is looking forward to the project because of all of the jobs it'll bring to the Twin Ports.

"Electricians will be there and ironworkers and masonry people, concrete workers. There's a lot of work here," said Harrington.

The pedestrian walkway across the Bong Bridge will remain open this year, but will be closed during the 2015 part of the construction project.