CHIPPEWA FALLS — Construction on the new Cobban Bridge could begin in 2021, with Chippewa County responsible for paying $1.68 million of the estimated $5.68 million project.
The Chippewa County Highway Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to support a resolution to move forward on final design and construction to replace the 100-year-old bridge, located halfway between Jim Falls and Cornell. The measure now moves to the full County Board for approval Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Supervisor Matt Hartman of rural Bloomer was pleased to see the project cost has dropped slightly this year. Federal dollars will now cover about 73 percent of the construction costs.
“There is only a couple hundred thousand dollars difference between building a new bridge and tearing it down,” Hartman said after the meeting. “Enough is enough — we’ve hashed it out enough. Let’s get it done.”
Supervisor Tom Thornton of Stanley agreed with Hartman that he is eager to have the construction begin.
“It is within what we consider an acceptable number,” Thornton said. “We aren’t going to have a problem coming up with the money.”
Thornton added the money will likely be included in a future borrowing package.
In May, the state Department of Transportation announced it had awarded $4.7 million in state bridge funds to the project. However, the DOT usually funds 80 percent of a project. In this case, the county is left paying for all costs above that $4.7 million figure, and if estimates escalate, those additional dollars will fall on the county to cover.
Last August, the Cobban Bridge was closed indefinitely after it failed inspections; it isn’t expected to reopen. The new structure would be about 26 feet wide with a length of 500 feet over seven bridge spans.
The county had considered moving it a quarter-mile south, but that option turned out to be too expensive. In recent years, only about 250 vehicles were crossing the bridge daily, but Thornton said it needs to be replaced despite the high cost to the county.
Highway commissioner Brian Kelley previously said that if the county opted not to come up with the $1.6 million to replace the bridge, the county would still have to pay $1 million to tear it down — and would likely not be eligible for state funding for demolition — plus the county would have to repay the state about $440,000 spent in engineering and design costs.
The 484-foot-long Cobban Bridge, built in 1908, is a single-lane, steel Pennsylvania Truss bridge and is considered a fracture critical structure. The county reduced the weight limit on the bridge in 2007 from 10 tons to 6 tons, preventing school buses and firetrucks from using it, in an effort to extend its useful life.
In other news, the Highway Committee heard that plans to begin construction on a new bridge over Paint Creek on the east side of Little Lake Wissota is now expected to begin by June 15. The bridge buckled this spring, and it was torn down in late June.
In one final note, the board will begin discussions next month to turn the intersection of Highways S and Q — just northwest of the Chippewa Falls city limits — into a roundabout. Traffic on Highway S has climbed in recent years, with more trucks headed to the EOG Resources sand processing plant. There are already roundabouts on Highway S at Highways 124 and 178.