There's a lot that goes on building a bridge. Obviously there are structural and safety considerations and then the rerouting of traffic during construction, but in the case of the upcoming project ion Eureka there is a lot more involved, including farmers' growing seasons, historical documentation, river navigability, nesting swallows and even an endangered mussel.
To keep area residents updated on the progress of the Eureka Bridge project, Winnebago County Highway Commissioner John Haese and two representatives of Ayres Associations held a public meeting at the Rushford Town Hall. The turnout was much smaller than at the initial meeting 13 months ago, but there was still plenty of interest.
One resident looking at the plans on display said, "It looks like it'll be nice when it's done, but it'll be a pain in the butt until then."
David Pantzlaff, the manager of Structural Engineering for Ayres, explained that things were very conceptual at the firs meeting, but they have listened to the input of residents and boaters, decisions have been made, and plans are moving along to tear down and replace the bridge that has been deemed structurally deficient.
Comments at that first primarily focused on keeping the bridge high enough for boaters to navigate the Fox River, providing safety at the intersection by the post office, and coordinating the time schedule with fish spawning and farming.
Pantzlaff reported that the estimated cost of the project has risen, now at $1.85 million due to marsh excavation, the additional of a cul-de-sac, and some rising costs. The project will be 80% federally funded and 20% county funded.
It will take approximately four months to replace the bridge, requiring a 15 mile detour, and it's looking like the earliest construction could begin is July 4, 2011.
"Construction will take place in July, August, September and October, which we realize is not really what the farm community desired," Pantzlaff said.
Part of the delay stems from the fact that the Eureka Bridge, built in 1939, is the only one of its kind left. The bridge is not on the State Historic Registry, but it is eligible to be. The State Historic Preservation Office is the "watchdog" for such projects and those planning the project had to show there was no way to preserve the existing bridge. They plan to mitigate the loss of this piece of history by taking numerous photos and submitting reports. It will be documented for prosperity.
There is funding available for that, Pantzlaff said, and they may even put a marker of some sort at the site, showing the bridge that once stood there.
The Department of Natural Resources had a lot of input on the project. It was found that an endangered freshwater mussel lives in the area of the bridge and must be moved before work can begin. In the late summer or early fall of this year, divers will need to find, classify and then relocate them downstream. This is only the third time in Pantzlaff has encountered this.
Because of the sturgeon population, they will also refrain from blasting July 15 to August 15 and may do entirely,
The bridge will also need to have netting placed on it prior to may 1 to prevent swallows from nesting there.
They are anticipating abut a quarter acre of wetlands will be impacted by the project, and that will need to be mitigated somehow.
Pantzlaff said they are still negotiating with the DNR, but they have a good working relationship with them.
Members of the Berlin Boat Club and Omro's Fox River Runners are concerned about navigational clearance, especially as they work to reopen the Eureka Lock upstream. They looked at 5 different structure types before selecting the proposed design.
There will be 4 spans to the new bridge, while the current bridge has 5. There will be a 102-foot span right over the navigational channel. The new bridge will be about 10 feet longer with one less pier, opening up navigation. The top of the bride deck will come up 2.5 feet and the bottom of the bridge is coming up approximately 15 inches.
The water fluctuates so much, it's hard to say what the actual clearance will be.
There will be some navigational lighting. Temporary lighted buoys will be in place during the construction.
The current bridge is 24 ft wide, while the new bridge will be 34 ft wide - the width being determined by the amount of the traffic on the road. The side railing will be 3.5 ft tall. This will make it a lot safer for walkers, although there will be no raised sidewalk but rather a paved shoulder.
Ayres Transportation Engineer Troy Robillard said there will be 12 ft lanes with 6 ft shoulders.
Fishing from the bridge was never allowed and most likely that will continue with the new, wider bridge; however Haese said. "How do you enforce that? If someone gets hurt, it's not our fault. You chose to go out there and fish.
Curb and gutter will be put in front of the Eureka Post Office, but there will no longer be parking there. Spring St and Liberty St will end in cul-de-sac and eliminating the intersection at the south end of the bridge for safety reasons.
Robillard said the owner of Eureka Landings is putting together a parking lot design that will provide parking for the post office as well.
Right-of-way will be needed from 4 property owners. For example, the bait shop on the south end of the bridge will need to be acquired.
The project will not go any earlier than July 2011, however it could go later depending on the historical aspect, environmental issues and timing with the farmers. If it does get pushed back, the residents will be informed so the can plan accordingly.
The fact it is a historic structure may be the thing most likely to hold the project up, as Ayres has to go through both the state and federal level for approval before proceeding. "There's nothing definite aout this process unfortunately," Pantzlaff said.
Robillard said they should know by this August if there will be another delay.