COLUMBUS — It will likely be the end of September before the city can officially close out the Old Highway 82 bridge restoration project due to two factors — issues with the primer used in the painting process and a flock of protected migratory barn swallows who have made the construction site their temporary home.
City engineer Kevin Stafford said the primer to be used for the steel portion of the bridge did not adhere to the steel structure in some places. The Mississippi Department of Transportation, which provided a $2.5 million restoration grant, has a list of approved paints that can be used for certain structures.
True Grit, the sub-contractor Malouf Construction selected to paint the bridge, picked a primer coating provided by Sherwin Williams. After workers applied the first coat to a small portion of the bridge, representatives with Neel-Schaffer and Malouf Construction ran a test to assess the amount of time the coat was taking to dry.
“We would come back behind it and run our test, and the paint was peeling off the bridge, not bad, (but) in some places it was sticking, some places it was peeling off,” Stafford said.
Sherwin Williams representatives conducted their own tests and said that the paint was fine, but that it needed more time to dry.
“I never talked to Sherwin Williams (representatives) but I heard through a conversation with Malouf that we could be talking about a month, month-and-a-half just for the first coat to dry, much less the other coats that go on after that,” Stafford said.
The only other option then was to find another primer, but there wasn’t another one on the approved list.
Stafford said Sherwin Williams and MDOT met to work out a solution. In the meantime, workers with True Grit pressure washed the structure to remove the coat of primer.
Now, Sherwin Williams has a variety of primer that has been tested on the bridge that works and cures more quickly. MDOT started their own test on the coat last Tuesday, Stafford said. Once their test is complete and they approve it, the sub-contractor will return to the site to apply this first coat.
“They’re going to start back full blast (this) week with the primer,” Stafford said. “Once you get the primer down, the intermediate and final coats are actually sticking to something they’ve used before. I would hope that they’re going to be no problem at all.”
The barn swallows began appearing recently while workers were applying the primer.
MDOT environmentalists confirmed they were that variety of bird and because they are a protected species, anything done to compromise the birds or their habitat would be environmental violations, Stafford said.
“What their nests look like is a large dirt-dauber nest. I would say there’re 30-plus nests just along one side. MDOT said they’ll abandon those nests sometime in late August or early September and should be gone by mid-September.
“By mid-September, they said you can take the nests down without any action from us. We won’t be affecting anything environmentally,” Stafford said.
Stafford said workers should be done painting the bridge by the end of August before they install the boardwalk and lights.
“I would hope by the end of August you’ll see the scaffolding and the netting start to come down and so you can actually see what the final product is going to look like minus the boardwalk and lights,” he said.
While this takes place, workers will also install a sidewalk that will connect the Riverwalk to the east end of the bridge.
Stafford said though Malouf’s contract was originally up at the end of this month, there will be no penalty for them going over because of the extraordinary circumstances that caused the delays. There is no timetable for a ribbon-cutting.