'Failed' bridge could remain closed for years

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Jenny Sharp | January 6, 2015

TOWN OF SHARON — It could be four to seven years before a closed-down town of Sharon bridge is replaced, according to Kevin Brunner, Walworth County director of central services.

Brunner recently updated the Walworth County Public Works Committee on the bridge and possible applications for bridge replacement funding.

“For a small bridge in a rural township, it's a very complicated situation,” Brunner said.

The bridge, on Peters Road between U.S. Highway 14 and Wisconsin 67, is owned by the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission and maintained by Wisconsin Southern Railroad. It was closed in July after state, railroad and county officials determined that the railings were not crash-worthy and the structure underneath the bridge is unsafe.

Because of the closing, residents who live near the bridge must take a 12-mile route to get to nearby Darien instead of a three-mile route. Some are concerned about the added time for emergency vehicles to get to and from homes near the bridge.

The county and town have requested that repairs be made, but the owner and maintainer believe the bridge should stay closed because it's “in a failed state,” Brunner said.

County and town officials must determine which entity should apply for bridge funding from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, he said.

“At some point, the ownership of the bridge has to transfer to one of those two parties (the county or the town),” Brunner said. “You can't improve a bridge you don't own.”
The minimum replacement cost would be about $1 million, Brunner estimated.

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