CHIPPEWA FALLS — Tessa Dachel, dining room manager at The Edge Pub & Eatery, said workers are trying to keep their spirits high as they prepare for the Highway S bridge to be closed for the next three weeks, cutting them off from a quick trip to customers in Chippewa Falls.
“Boat access is still possible, but it will be difficult during lunch rushes,” Dachel said on Thursday. “A lot of guys made comments today that it will be their last day for lunch here for a couple of weeks. It’s hard because it’s about a 15-minute extra commute. Luckily, we have our regulars from Jim Falls.”
The Chippewa County Highway Department announced in April that the Highway S bridge on the north side of Lake Wissota will be closed for repairs beginning Monday.
With the bridge closed, detours mean going north to Jim Falls to cross the Chippewa River, or going south around the south side of Lake Wissota.
Other businesses on the northeast side of the bridge that will likely be impacted by the closure include Lake Wissota Golf & Events and the Chippewa County Humane Association.
Dachel said she is aware some people will use pontoons to get across the water to The Edge, and many people are planning to walk or bike on the nearby pedestrian bridge. At this point, the restaurant isn’t planning to adjust hours of operation.
“We’ll see how the first week goes,” she said.
Highway department construction manager Chris Elstran said the work is general maintenance of the deteriorating expansion joints at both ends of the bridge.
“This last spring, with bridge inspections, we noticed problems with the abutment walls,” Elstran said.
Several people asked about keeping one lane open during repairs.
“It’s not feasible,” Elstran explained. “Bridges move with traffic on them, and we’re trying to form concrete. It’s an inconvenience for the public, and we recognize that.”
Two crews — one working on each end of the bridge — will start Monday.
“Worst-case scenario is (closed for) three weeks,” Elstran said.
The work was deliberately slated to begin after Rock Fest concluded.
“With that bridge, there really is no good time,” he said. “But we wanted to lessen the impact on schools (by having it done in the summer).”
The Highway S bridge was constructed in the 1980s. The good news is that the county has an agreement with Xcel Energy in which the utility will pay roughly one-third of the cost of the bridge work.
Once the Highway S bridge is finished, the crews will do similar maintenance on the Highway Y bridge in Jim Falls, replacing deteriorated concrete on the deck and bridge approaches. That also is expected to be a three-week closure. Elstran said that work should begin early to mid-August, but that is all dependent on how quickly the Highway S bridge is completed. That detour will be much longer, as the next open bridge to the north is in Cornell.