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After Leo Frigo Bridge closure, WisDOT officials detail protocols for driver-reported hazards

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Posted at 4:09 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 17:14:34-05

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Following the temporary closure of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge Thursday, Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials explain protocol for investigating perceived roadway hazards reported by drivers.

Green Bay police shut down all lanes of the I-43 Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge for more than 2.5 hours Thursday after receiving a complaint of a "suspicious bump" at the arch of the bridge. A police supervisor notified the Brown County Dispatch Center of the complaint, according to the director of Brown County Public Safety Communications. The information was eventually relayed to WisDOT.

"As it was relayed to us, they said there was a pavement buckle on the bridge, which was a little bit of a different description than we typically might hear," said Scott Nelson, WisDOT Northeast region operations manager. “We don’t want to close that (bridge) unless it’s absolutely necessary and last night it was necessary based on the information that we received."

Courtesy: Green Bay police

Nelson and his team handle infrastructure maintenance, including any maintenance to the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge.

Once they received the complaint, Nelson said a bridge engineer and county highway department employee were sent to assess the situation. A second bridge engineer went later and conducted another thorough review of the area in question. Nelson said the expansion joint on the bridge deck on the east end of the arch was identified as the area of concern in the complaint, but both investigations confirmed no safety issues existed at the location.

"We acted out of an abundance of caution," Nelson said. "Life safety is a top priority in all these issues and we didn’t want to reopen that bridge until we were convinced everything was as it should be.”

WisDOTdata shows an average of 38,400 vehicles travel over the Leo Frigo bridge every day. Nelson said he doesn't recall hearing a complaint like the one they received Thursday in several years, although he said they do respond to weather-related complaints throughout the year.

“We always have some people that are on call for when emergencies come in. So those calls will go through the dispatch center and they process those calls. If it’s appropriate, they’ll be contacting WisDOT to go do a response, or if it’s something else maybe some other agencies will be responding," Nelson said. "No matter what that hazard is, if it's impeding traffic, it's our responsibility to get out there and address it as quickly as we can and as safely as we can."

Nelson said relaying information to a 911 Dispatch Center is the best way to ensure the right people and resources make it out to an emergency.

Back in September 2013, a similar situation resulted in a much longer closure. The Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge closed after erosion of the surrounding soil caused the piers to sink, causing a 400-foot span of the deck to sag. The bridge reopened in January 2014 after $8 million of repairs.