Sagging Interstate 43 bridge in Green Bay shut down
Drivers saw a dip before daybreak.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The bridge that carries Interstate 43 over the Fox River here was closed indefinitely Wednesday after drivers discovered a support pier had settled more than 2 feet.
The pavement has a long, deep dip — 400 feet long and 20 inches deep going across all four lanes of interstate — that was reported to authorities before sunrise Wednesday.
“Our No. 1 priority is public safety,” Gov. Scott Walker said at an afternoon press conference. “We will fix this bridge.”
The 33-year-old bridge is not in danger of collapsing, state Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said.
On Aug. 1, 2007, the 40-year-old eight-lane I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during evening rush hour traffic, killing 13 people and injuring 145. Two years before, Minnesota officials had rated the bridge as structurally deficient.
About 13 months after the collapse, a new span over the Mississippi River was opened.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials said they don’t know how long the I-43 bridge will be closed, whether it must be replaced or how much repairs will cost until an investigation is completed.
“It could be months. It could be a year,” spokesman Kim Rudat said. “This is a surprise. It’s a significant event.”
The pier that settled is on land east of the Fox River and likely happened between 9:45 p.m. CT Tuesday and just before 5 a.m. Wednesday.
That portion of the 8,000-foot-long bridge was last inspected in August 2012. Cracks were found in the piers at that time, but were determined to be normal wear.
Websites that access federal bridge data indicate the bridge’s deck, superstructure and substructure were listed as “good” to “satisfactory” in a 2012 inventory.
Work crews completed work on the bridge earlier this year as part of a nearly $17 million project to improve 3.5 miles of of I-43, including the bridge.
The project included resurfacing the span, replacement of bridge joints, repainting of steel support girders, installation of traffic cameras at multiple locations near the bridge, and the addition of access-control gates at ramps to get on the interstate.
The Leo Frigo bridge carries more than 40,000 vehicles a day. It opened on Oct. 4, 1980, after almost four years of construction at a cost of $32 million. At the time, it was Wisconsin’s longest bridge; it has since been surpassed by Milwaukee’s Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge as the state’s longest.