Strike delays bridge project
Berlin Street to be closed
By Robert Cloud
A strike by communications workers with AT&T has delayed construction of a new bridge on Berlin Street and County Trunk E.
Slated to start the first week of June, the project has come to a halt because an AT&T utility line that runs across the bridge must be moved before work can begin.
There were already concerns about the utility work falling behind schedule before the five-state strike began on May 31.
Tyler Volkmann is the project manager with Pheifer Bros. Construction Co., in Neenah, which is the lead contractor for the bridge.
In a May 24 email to County Highway Commissioner Casey Beyersdorf, Volkmann noted AT&T had advised him the utility would not be relocated by the original deadline of May 31 and may be delayed until June 22.
“If they do not get the line moved until the 22nd of June, then we won’t be starting work until the 25th of June,” Volkmann said.
On May 31, AT&T informed Volkmann work could begin on Friday, June 8.
“However, a few hours after I got that call I was informed that a strike started which meant that all of the guys working on the relocation of the utility stopped working and left the job site,” Volkmann said in a June 1 email. “That being said, we are back to not knowing when we are going to be able to get going.”
More than 11,000 members of the Communications Workers of America have gone on strike in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
CWA’s contract with AT&T expired on April 14.
“The concessions that AT&T is demanding are insulting,” Vice President of Telecommunications & Technologies Lisa Bolton said in a press release. “AT&T made nearly $30 billion in profits last year, and is reaping major benefits from the passage of the corporate tax cut bill. They can afford to keep good family-supporting jobs in our communities instead of laying off workers and sending their work to low-wage contractors.”
AT&T released this statement following announcement of the strike:
“This contract currently covers good-paying U.S. jobs averaging over $120,000 a year in pay and benefits, with some making over $200,000. After over 10 weeks of negotiations, we have presented a final offer to the union’s negotiating team at the bargaining table with a goal of bringing this process to a close and reaching a fair agreement for our employees.”
Berlin Street follows the route of County E, so the bridge is a county project.
Beyersdorf said the bridge will cost $750,000 to build, with the state covering 80 percent and the county covering 20 percent of the cost.
Built in 1906, the current arched stone bridge crossing the Crystal River is 28-feet wide by 30-feet long.
A June 2016 state inspection gave the Berlin Street bridge a sufficiency rating of 11.7 out of a possible 100 points.
The structure was described as “basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action” and the bridge foundations were “determined to be unstable.”
According to a 2015 traffic count, an average of 2,827 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
The new bridge will be 42-feet wide with two 12-foot driving lanes and two 6-foot shoulders, one of which will have a concrete sidewalk.
The county’s contract for the project was for 55 working days and for a June 4 start date and completion by mid-August.
Once construction begins, southbound through traffic onto State Street will be detoured at the intersection of State and School streets.
Traffic will follow State Street, which becomes Royalton Street, then turn south on Churchill Street and west on Evans Street to County E south of the bridge.
Local traffic will be allowed on State and Berlin streets north of the bridge.
Because the bridge crosses a navigable stream, contractors will place buoys on the Crystal River about 200 feet from both sides of the bridge.
“Kayakers will not be able to go through the area,” Beyersdorf said, noting they should not paddle past the small stream that feeds into Shadow Lake just north of U.S. Highway 10.