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Bridge work enters new phaseFirst beams placedBy LYDIA FISER and ILEANA MORALES | More by this reporter | Record interns | Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 ; Updated: 12:30 AM on Wednesday, May 21, 2008 Workers set the first steel of the Bridge of Lions Rehabilitation project Tuesday afternoon, marking the beginning of a new phase in the project. The steel set were the smaller, straight girders, or steel beams, that are right next to the shore line and run parallel to traffic under each side of the road connecting each pier. These new, straight beams are the first to be placed in the superstructure of the bridge. The original arched girders that give the bridge its signature scalloped look will be restored and set later this summer, said Laurie Sanderson, spokesperson for the project. "When the historic arched girders return to site, that will really be a milestone," Sanderson said. "People will really start to notice." Tuesday's feat was enough for some people to notice, including City Attorney Ron Brown, who said it was the first visible step in reconstruction. "Remember this is a city that prides itself on trying to retain historical sites," Brown said. A crane with a 160-foot boom laid the 35,000-pound steel sets slowly as sweaty workers guided the crane driver to lay it within a sixteenth of an inch of engineers' measures. Placing one set took up to an hour. Florida Structural Steel, a company that specializes in this form of restoration, will return the historic arched girders from Lakeland where they are being cleaned, sand blasted, polished, coated and painted. The beams are painted the mossy-green color of the original 1927 girders most residents have never seen. Most people have seen them a faded yellow. Railings and lights on the bridge will be replaced with replicas of the 1927 models. Sanderson said holding the bridge to its original features and the city's historical theme has also allowed it to bypass some standard regulations including widening its channel opening to 120 feet. To keep the four original towers at the middle of the bridge a third lane for emergency vehicles could not be built. The temporary bridge will be removed in 2010 after the refurbished bridge is done in fall 2009. The new bridge should last 80 to 100 years, Sanderson said.