Safety is a concern, so only the decorative lights on the Blatnik Bridge will be off during the two year preservation project that started this month.

There is a lot to do to get one of our local landmarks up to snuff.

• Repair and strengthen gusset plates on the bridge's main span to improve the load-carrying capacity of the bridge.

• Sandblast and paint the main span from about 10 feet above the deck and below. This area, referred to as "the splash zone", is subjected to vehicle spray and road salt and needs to be repainted to protect the steel from corrosion. The approach spans will receive spot painting in defined areas that have higher exposure to road salt.

• Replace the concrete traffic rail on the main span with a thinner, lighter weight rail. This will reduce the overall weight on the bridge which will increase the load carrying capacity and provide better access to the steel members behind the rail. This will simplify future maintenance work and allow for more thorough bridge inspections.

• Replace the bridge deck expansion joints. The existing joints are leaking, causing water and salt damage to the structural steel members.

• Remove decorative outline lighting. The current lighting system is in a state of disrepair and needs to be removed so that all areas of the bridge can be painted.

Of course, the lights on the bridge will remain operational because they are important for the safety of motorists. A team of local and state officials are confident that the new lighting system will be completed by Fall of next year.

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