BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) It has to be one of the coldest jobs in Buffalo in the month of January. For the third winter in a row, 90 construction workers have braved the wind and cold high atop the Peace Bridge where Lake Erie meets the Niagara River below.
“You just have to be aware of your footing and make sure you don’t slip near the edge,” said John Gibson of Ironworkers Buffalo Local 6. “Just the difference in winds up here from the ground. They’ll be probably 20 to 30 miles per hour more up here than what they’re listed on the ground. Just the strength of the wind, especially, when it’s out of the north.”
They not only battle the weather, but also have to watch their step with the constant traffic going by on both directions, according to Tammy Trapper of Laboroers Local 210. “Extremely dangerous, very slippery, very cold, just slipping and tripping just hazardous. You always got to be looking out for things. To keep warm, you’re constantly moving. Try to keep moving. It’s amust. keep moving, keep warm.”
Gibson is a firm believer in wearing layers, and wearing wool. “I like a wool shirt, wool socks and a wool underliner. Other than that, you just gotta try and stay dry. Staying dry is the key.”
This $100 million dollar project is replacing the structural steel, putting in a new steel and concrete deck all the way across, in addition to a new pedestrian walkway and observation platform atop this bridge first built in 1927.
Scott Swamback is the assitant project manager for American Bridge Company. He describes the bulk of the work. “Well, in layman’s terms, it’s taking out the existing deck which is about 12 inches. It varies all over and we remove that, we clean the steel. We put down a lighter grid deck system, form it up, put studs in, pour concrete and then move phase to phase depending on the traffic pattern.”
Just getting around at this construction site often involves walking on what’s known as the safe span, a sort of bouncing catwalk under the railings of the bridge. “It’s very simlar to being on a boat, said Gibson. “Like a boat on a lake. It’ll bob a little, roll to it.”
The good news for drivers is that all three lanes of the Peace Bridge should be reopened to traffic again permanently by mid-May. When all this work wraps up in about five months, there’ll be a sense of pride for workers like Tammy Trapper who grew up on the west side. “Oh definitely. I look back at it as something that I did, something I accomplished and it’s a good feeling. I’ve passed under this bridge many times. I swam under it too, did a lot of swimming there.”
John Gibson also grew up in western New York. He says it’s still built pretty strong for a 92 year old bridge. “You know you’ll say, ‘oh, I touched that piece. I helped put that in and hopefully it looks decent and stays decent for years to come.”