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Work slowed, but still underway

Weather, floods delay Mehaffey Bridge replacement project

JOHNSON COUNTY– The bridge may take longer than expected.
Replacing Mehaffey Bridge over the Iowa River between Solon and North Liberty is a four-stage project that began last spring, with an anticipated completion date of November 2014. However, excessive rainfall earlier this season brought water levels under the bridge too high for construction to take place, delaying work by weeks.
“With the two floods and the brutal winter, from a temperature standpoint, the contractor appears to be about 12-plus weeks behind schedule,” said Greg Parker of Johnson County Secondary Roads, in an email communication last week. “They have not stopped working on the bridge, and they are attempting to make as much time as possible as quickly as possible.”
Therefore, work progresses, though much of which is taking place underneath the structure.
“Right now they are handling the complex portion of construction, the up-right diagonals,” Parker said. “They can only build one at a time and there is limited work space to accomplish referenced work. As they accomplish more of the diagonals, the work is speeding up due to repetitious activities.”
The traveling public should not see any change until the county receives the critical closure request from the contractor, which will put traffic on the new bridge to remove the old bridge and pour the rest of the new bridge deck, Parker added.
When the project enters its final phases, the existing bridge will be reduced to one lane, with signals at each end to control traffic.
“When traffic is shifted (to the new bridge), we will set traffic lights and have alternating traffic traveling on the same lane until the full deck and approaches are complete,” Parker said; however, he has no confirmation from the contractor about the timing of that phase yet, and may not know for at least a couple of weeks.
“This is a very complex project and a lot of the pieces of the puzzle need to come together fairly quickly at that point,” Parker noted.
The $8.9 million project to replace the 50-year-old span will widen the bridge’s travel lanes, increase its weight capacity, improve its flood resistance and provide a wider channel under the bridge. The plan calls for adding a pedestrian route along the bridge and roadway as well, likely in 2016, to give people a safe route between Sugar Bottom Campground to the Mehaffey Boat Ramp.
Earlier this summer, the county and the City of North Liberty partnered to improve the road between Solon and North Liberty from Penn Street to Sugar Bottom Road, a cost-sharing effort with $1million coming from North Liberty and and $1.3 million from Johnson County. That project is nearing completion, with its intermediate layer of asphalt installed.
But there is more to come, Parker said.
“We are waiting for the dirt contractor to complete all driveways and grading activities prior to putting the surface (final layer) course down,” Parker said, and weather is going to remain a big factor in the timing. “As soon as the grading activities are completed, the surface course will be constructed, substantially completing the project. The contractor was indicating another couple of weeks, weather depending.”