Construction of the Brookfield Avenue bridge in Brookfield finally resumed Aug. 8 despite rainy conditions with workers pouring concrete for the southeast wing wall, the first of many concrete pours that had been held up due to a nearly two-month long strike by members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.
Local 150 had walked off the job at three aggregate materials suppliers, including Lehigh Hanson in McCook, abruptly halting road and infrastructure projects across northern Illinois.
Union members voted unanimously on July 26 to ratify a new contract with Chicago Area Aggregate Producers, which represents Lehigh Hanson, Vulcan Materials and Lafarge Holcim, the companies that produce stone aggregate and other materials used to make concrete.
The strike halted work on the Brookfield bridge project on June 7, just as crews prepared for the first concrete pours to form the superstructure upon which the new bridge deck will be built.
With the strike over, local officials had hoped to get started quickly on the concrete work and had scheduled the east wing wall pour for Aug. 3. However, union members from Local 150 picketed the worksite due to an issue with the concrete supplier, Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete Inc.
The dispute between the union and Ozinga is separate from the strike. Ozinga in June filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Local 150 with the National Labor Relations Board in response to the union picketing at Ozinga jobsites. That complaint appears to have been dismissed on June 28 and no appeal was filed, according to the NLRB website.
Ed Maher, the media contact for Local 150, did not respond to a phone call from the Landmark seeking comment on the union’s dispute with Ozinga.
Jesse Singer, a project engineer for Ciorba Group, which has been the lead engineering consultant on the Brookfield Avenue bridge initiative, said the project’s general contractor was able to secure another concrete supplier, Oremus Materials Inc., and rescheduled the pour for Aug. 8.
“The project seems to be fighting us every step of the way,” said Singer.
The next phase of the project is to pour the concrete footing west of Salt Creek, then build the form for the west abutment and pour the east and west abutments. Once the concrete abutments have cured, workers will set the beams.
When the beams are in place, they’ll then begin to form the bridge deck, a process that could take up to a month, before pouring the concrete for the deck itself.
“With the aggregate strike there was really no way forward, and it put us about a month behind schedule,” said Singer of a project that has been plagued by a series of unforeseen delays.
Begun in spring 2021, the plan had been to finish the bridge by the end of that year. The project bogged down early over a request by the contractor to have ComEd relocate an overhead power line west of the bridge.
After that issue was resolved, work came to halt in late summer when it was determined that a water main needed to be rerouted north of the bridge to accommodate the wider superstructure of the new bridge. Work did not recommence until February 2022 and it took until mid-March to reroute the water main.
Work then bogged down again in spring until ComEd finally removed the overhead power lines west of Salt Creek. Crews completed demolition and began driving piles for the bridge abutments and building forms for the concrete piers when the Local 150 strike brought everything to a halt.
Singer said the goal is to finish the bridge in 2022.
“We’re going to do everything we can not to go into another [construction] season,” he said.