After an extended closure, the Wendell Avenue Bridge reopened on Monday.

The bridge was initially slated to open more than a month ago, but the project was stymied due to manufacturing delays. However, the contractor was able to install a temporary signal system, which allowed the Alaska Department of Transportation to open the bridge to vehicle traffic late Monday afternoon.

According to DOT spokesperson Caitlin Frye, the contractor also removed all the lane restrictions from the intersection of Third Street and the Steese Expressway.

The bridge opening was delayed because, due to Covid-19 related supply chain issues, several signal poles and signal cabinets that were supposed to arrive in late summer are not yet here. The lack of a signal pole and signal cabinet at the intersection of Third Street, Minnie Street and the Old Steese has kept the bridge from opening.

“This is a very busy intersection when the Wendell Bridge is open,” Frye said.

The contractor was able to find a temporary solution and permanent signal systems will hopefully be installed this winter “pending their arrival from the manufacturer,” Frye said. At this time, DOT expects the bridge will be kept open while the permanent signal system is installed.

The Wendell Avenue Bridge project — the bulk of which involves replacing the bridge — began during summer 2020 and the bridge was closed in September 2020.

“Crews worked all through the winter and summer to build a temporary work bridge, demolish the old bridge, construct the new one, and then remove the temporary work bridge,” Frye explained. According to the project description on the DOT website, the goal of the work is to improve safety and service of the Wendell Avenue Bridge.

Although the bridge is open, the project is not complete. Next summer, the contractor will finish concrete work on the west sidewalk (which is closed for the duration of the winter). Crews will also replace the temporary bridge rail with a permanent railing, Frye said.

The previous bridge was built in 1953 and needed extensive structural repairs as well as wider sidewalks for pedestrians. The cost of updating and retrofitting the bridge was essentially equivalent to replacing it, according to DOT.

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 907-459-7544 or mthomas@newsminer.com.

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