Drivers on the Sunshine Bridge have an unfettered view, once again, of blue skies — and sunshine — now that the last of the tarps and platforms that shrouded the overhead framework for a year are down.
A $25.1 million project underway by the state Department of Transportation and Development to repaint and refurbish the bridge called for the coverings, which blocked out the sky and gave a somewhat claustrophobic effect to the trek over the bridge.
“We took them down every day” as the job of blasting off rust, making repairs and repainting the structure progressed, said George Pilatos, project quality control supervisor for the Ohio-based North Star Painting Co., which is doing the work on the bridge over the Mississippi River in St. James Parish.
The last of the coverings came off in mid-July, Pilatos said.
There actually were three levels of cover attached by cables to the bridge.
An overhead platform of corrugated metal sheeting that was closest to drivers was there to keep paint and debris from getting on the vehicles and the roadway, Pilatos said.
Above that were huge tarps required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to contain air emissions.
“We’re taking the old paint and rust off with air pressure. That makes a lot of dust,” Pilatos said.
Finally, above the tarps was another platform of corrugated metal sheeting on which crews walked to do their work.
Some painting work remains in smaller spots on the bridge here and there, Pilatos said.
The Sunshine Bridge opened in 1964, connecting the two ends of La. 70 where the Mississippi River interrupts the highway.
DOTD estimates the bridge is traveled every day by 22,000 motorists. The roughly 2-mile cantilever bridge was last repainted in 1980.
Work on the current project began in February 2014, with the goal of cleaning and painting the superstructure of the bridge’s main span and replacing old rivets with bolts and attending to other rusted-out parts.
The project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2016, DOTD spokeswoman Anastasia Semien, said.
The work underway is the second phase of the bridge project, Semien said.
“The first phase of the project, which was under construction from April 2012 (to February 2014) included cleaning, painting and structural rehabilitation to the approach spans of the bridge” and cost $6.2 million, she said.
Travel on the bridge is still restricted to one lane in each direction, with concrete barriers between the lanes that are on the upriver side of the bridge.
Drivers have been coping with the one-lane traffic since early last year.
This fall, workers will reconfigure the lane restrictions so traffic moves in the outside lanes along each side of the bridge, DOTD officials have said.
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