The first steel I-beams of Defiance’s new Clinton Street bridge were placed Wednesday.

The concrete columns on the four piers that will support the beams and the icebreakers that protect them have been built by Great Lakes Construction Co. of Medina County in recent weeks. Three of the pier’s rectangular concrete caps have been constructed, while the fourth and final one — on pier two — will be poured today.

Each pier cap needs seven days to cure, according to Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) project manager Bashar Kanouh.

Upon the caps will sit the steel beams, the placement of which prompted ODOT to hold a media event at the bridge’s south end Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the beams were brought in on a flatbed truck this week, with installation beginning Wednesday between the bridge’s completed north abutment and pier four (closest to the abutment). In all, seven beams will be installed this week, with seven more expected to come in next week for placement between piers three and four, according to Kanouh.

The beams come in sections measuring approximately 62 feet and 50 feet in length, and are fused together with bolts before being lifted by a crane onto the pier caps.

When laid from one end of the bridge to the other, each of the completed seven beams will consist of nine pieces joined together, supporting a span that will total more than 450 feet.

This week’s work will virtually complete construction of the bridge’s substructure — essentially consisting of the abutments, piers and pier caps. All that remained as of Wednesday afternoon was the pouring of pier cap 2 (mentioned above) and completion of the south abutment.

Construction crews also were working on a water line installation on the bridge’s south approach.

While beam installation will dominate construction work in coming weeks, pouring of the bridge’s concrete deck is expected in October, according to Kanouh.

“I would say some time in October you’ll see us pouring the deck,” he said. “We are still on track to open by early December.”

The old bridge closed on Feb. 24 and was removed.

High river levels earlier this year delayed the project and pushed the expected opening date in late November into December. The project is far enough along to avoid further problems with future high water while Kanouh said ODOT is still trying to make up for lost time and open the bridge as originally planned.

“Since the beginning of June ... we have worked every Saturday, and we are definitely on some kind of schedule working six days a week,” he said. “And lately we’ve been working on some Sundays just to bring the project on time and recover from the loss we had in the first couple months.

“It is a priority, not just for myself personally, also to the citizens of Defiance, the business owners and our local law enforcement and our agencies,” added Kanouh, a Defiance resident. “We have to be really on track and open the bridge back up on time — as we said sometime in December. We do understand some of the people in Defiance have to travel an extra couple miles and they have been really patient ... . And we are trying our best to actually deliver as we promised, and hopefully that will work out.”

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