Downtown Green Bay bridges experience problems as ship moves through

A ship moves on the Fox River under the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge in Green Bay Dec. 27, 2017. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- The cold conditions may have affected some Green Bay drivers during their Wednesday morning commute.

For three and a half hours, The Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge on Main Street was stuck in the up position.

Crews had to fix the problem before a large ship could arrive in port.

The Green Bay Public Works Department closed the bridge about 8:30 a.m.

The Bartel family was on its way to the Neville Public Museum nearby.

"We noticed there was a detour, and just had to take a slight detour around the bridge," said Chip Bartel, Monument, Colorado.

Electricians combed the bridge trying to find the problem. The Green Bay Public Works Director says a tripped breaker was the likely cause.

"We anticipate that when we got to do lift bridge operations, at cold temperatures, we're going to have issues, and we know it," said Steve Grenier, Green Bay Public Works Director.

The bridge was opened to allow a tug boat into the waters of Green Bay to escort the GC Ostrander-Integrity tug boat-barge into the Port of Green Bay.

"I told staff, we got it up, leave it up. Let's not play around. Let's leave the bridge up, until we get that ship in. That way we don't have to lift it," said Grenier.

By mid morning, both sides of the bridge were lifted to the open positon. The small tug boat North Dakota cleared away a layer of ice to make way for the barge tug combo, loaded with concrete.

"It amazes me that they can actually get through the water when it's frozen like this. And still maintain shipping routes when it's this cold," said Bartel.

After a few test lifts, the Nitschke Bridge was back in operation. The barge headed upstream through the Walnut Street Bridge, but a frozen span on the Tilleman Bridge on Mason Street, delayed the vessel from getting to its destination at Lafarge.

"Ideally, I don't like operating the bridges in these temperatures, but product is coming in. We got a commercial port here. We go to operate, so it's just one of those things you deal with," said Grenier.

According to the City of Green Bay, the Nitschke Bridge performs about 535 lifts each year.

This year, there have been nine issues on the Nitschke Bridge resulting in unscheduled maintenance.

The public works director says the Walnut Street Bridge averages 562 lifts per year, while the Tilleman Bridge averages 141 lifts per year.

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