La Crosse Bridge Project Shortens the Trip to Market, Helps Local Farmers

Load postings signs are not an unfamiliar site on Wisconsin roads and bridges, especially in the state’s more rural areas. These postings are necessary for safety and to preserve the condition of the infrastructure. Even so, these postings often cause hardship for farmers as they must haul their harvest by an alternative and usually longer route to market.

This scenario was undoubtedly true for three bridges in La Crosse County: County Trunk Highway (CTH) T over Flemming Creek, CTH YY over Bostwick Creek, and CTH I over Bostwick Creek.  The structures are between 45 and 50 years old, and all had been load posted for more than a decade.

These bridges are located on regional agricultural corridors and in areas of heavy agricultural use. The Coulee Region’s geography and terrain decrease the profit margin for area farmers in an already tight, narrow margin industry. The bridges’ load postings were another hurdle to profitability.

The three structures also impacted the movement of heavy construction equipment and building materials in the region. As with agricultural products, the detour around the posted bridges added a significant distance. This additional mileage increased the cost of construction projects, both private and public.

La Crosse County addressed all three timber bridges with funding from a grant program in the 2019-21 state budget. The county rehabilitated the structures with a timber spreader deck solution, which has been implemented in at least six Wisconsin counties in the last two years.  This treatment is a proven and economical method to remove restrictive load postings on timber bridges. 

“One-time grant money allowed La Crosse County to cost-effectively rehabilitate three bridges that had been on the county’s rehabilitation list for 10 years,” said La Crosse County Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain. “Removing these load postings will improve the economic viability of those farms in the area as well as those farms that haul products through these areas.”

The total cost to rehabilitate the three bridges and remove the load postings was approximately $450,000. The county’s contribution to these projects was roughly $135,000.

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