IOWA CITY — When unexpected repairs to the Highway 965 bridge began last week, one kind of commuting commotion got swapped with another — for now.
The bridge over the Iowa River, used by some as an alternative to driving on Interstate 380, was for months restricted to only a single lane.
Now, crews are tearing apart the concrete deck with jackhammers while drivers are detoured around what used to be a busy bridge.
Crews are a week into the deck replacement process, which Johnson County officials expect to take about three months.
Rob Winstead, assistant county engineer, said he doesn’t have a timeline for the demolition phase, which involves breaking up concrete and cutting steel.
Winstead said the next step for crews is removing barrier rails.
Workers have placed a barge underneath to prevent any falling materials from landing in the river or on passing boats.
“That’s something the contractor brought in as an added measure of safety,” Winstead said.
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County officials in May realized the deck needed replacing after maintenance employees found cracking. During an emergency meeting, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors ordered a reduction to the weight limit and diverted traffic to a single lane.
Since then, VJ Engineering of Coralville has rushed engineering and design work. Supervisors approved a contract of just under $1 million with Cramer and Associates of Grimes.
Because drivers won’t be able to access the bridge at all during construction, the county chose a detour that uses 120th Street in Shueyville, I-380 and Penn Street in North Liberty.
Winstead said the county made efforts to inform drivers of the detour by renting message board signs well in advance of the work. He said he hasn’t heard any negative reactions yet.
Winstead does recommend drivers allow extra time for their commute, be patient and follow the detour signs.
Highway 965 usually carries about 1,800 cars a day. County officials hope to finish the project before winter weather.
The county recommends drivers follow the Secondary Roads Department’s twitter account @JCSecondaryRoad or its construction update page. The county created a map of the detour, which can be found on the construction page.