Seeing is believing

HENDERSON POINT - A layman's evaluation of construction progress on the new U.S. 90 bridge here has taken a leap over the last month or so.

The Granite Archer Western project has moved from marking the outline of the footprint of the span over the Bay of St. Louis to an honest-to-goodness skeletal outline of the new roadway.

"We're working on all phases now," Project Manager Allan Nelson said.

The most noticeable change is work on the decking forms, a plywood and concrete support roadway of sorts which will cradle the new highway. Workers swarm over that area, which sits about 35 feet in the air, roughly one-third the height they'll be working out on the center spans.

The work force has swelled to more than 240 workers. They're divided into two shifts working six 10-hour days a week, and they're working on everything from the water up.

Pilings for the bridge on the west side of the center-span supports are being driven from the channel toward shore. When the last pilings are driven on the east, the crane will shift to the west shore and start working toward the middle.

Some of the larger girders that will run along the length of the bridge in its center sit on barges in the middle of the bay. Two more joined the group over the weekend, bringing the total to 50, which is enough for 10 spans.

Trucks hauling the girders for the over-land portion of the bridge headed west down U.S. 90 during the morning.

Commuters headed to the nearby free ferry terminal get a glimpse of work on the south side of the U.S. 90 bridge over the railroad. Workers put together steel cages used to reinforce concrete in footers and caps along the bridge there before being shipped out on barges.

On the Bay St. Louis side, workers are placing concrete for the seawall and will eventually drive pilings for the abutment.

Crews have until May 16 to open two lanes to traffic on the $266.8 million bridge. They lost as many days last month to wind and rain - about six - as they had during the rest of the project combined.

"It's tight and we're probably a little behind," Nelson said. "It's going to be tight probably all the way to the very end, but it's doable."