Chippewa County Highway Dept. recommends new Cobban Bridge locat - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Chippewa County Highway Dept. recommends new Cobban Bridge location

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Chippewa County (WQOW) - Tuesday, the Chippewa County Board received an update on the Cobban Bridge project.

As we've reported, the cost of the recommended site for the project came in millions more than anticipated. At the presentation, members of the Chippewa County Highway Department, as well as the construction team, pushed for the board to consider a cheaper alternative at the existing site of the Cobban Bridge. That price tag is roughly $4 million less than the project site that was approved last year.

In August, the board will vote on going forward with the existing site, the alternative site, or choosing not to replace the bridge.

A meeting will be held July 17 at the Chippewa County highway shop so the public can get an update and weigh in on the project. 



Chippewa County (WQOW) - The price tag to replace the Cobban Bridge is now millions of dollars larger than expected. 

The Chippewa County Highway Department is working to replace the Cobban Bridge with a new bridge, located just south of the Cobban's current location. Estimates from 2015 put the cost at $7.2 million. Engineers working on the project said they need more road work and a longer bridge than originally expected. The updated estimate is $11 million. 

Under the original estimate, the replacement plan qualified for the "Local Bridge Program" for funding, which meant the federal government would cover 80 percent of the costs, and the county would be responsible for 20 percent. It now falls under the "High Cost Local Bridge Program", where the costs are split evenly among federal, county and town governments. 

"It could be almost impossible on some of the towns. We are talking very small towns, low population with a huge expense," said Glen Sikorski, the chair of the Chippewa County Highway Committee.

The county could revisit cheaper proposals for bridge replacement, but because the state already paid for studies at the selected location, it will not pay to go back and do studies for the other options. The longer the county waits, the more expensive the project could be.  By 2025, the bridge estimate is nearly $13 million. Plus, the delay would push back other bridge projects in the county. 

"Cobban is not the only bridge in the county that is in need of replacement," said Brian Kelley, the highway commissioner for Chippewa County. "We have about 11 other bridges in the county that are currently eligible for funding, so we need to look at what our priorities are and if we want to put all of our eggs in one basket with Cobban, or if we want to try to do something with those other bridges instead."

The highway committee said it wants to meet with the local towns impacted by the new pricing model before moving forward with any plans.

Just a few hours later in Chippewa County, Wisconsin DOT Secretary David Ross joined a roundtable with local business leaders. Ross said in the state, it is rare for road work to be more expensive than original estimates. He said it was an issue raised during a recent audit report 

"Most of those where the estimates were considerably off occurred in the 80s and 90s," Ross said. "We've been very close on estimates in most recent years. In fact, the good news about the transportation budget this year is that our cost of doing  projects has actually gone down."

Ross said the state has been averaging 10 percent less on DOT projects in 2017. Ross also praised Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget, which adds $76 million into local aid to help fix roads in municipalities, towns and villages. A business leader at Thursday's meeting asked if that is enough to catch up with the many road projects on the state's to-do list. Ross called it a "down-payment".

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