High Bridge could get facelift, connecting west side to downtown

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A railroad bridge that's more than a century old could soon get a facelift. The 'High Bridge' in Eau Claire is closed off to the public and hasn’t been in use for years, but if all goes as planned, by the end of the year, joggers and bike riders will have a new way to cross the Chippewa river.

City engineer David Solberg said a trail that stretches about a half mile long would connect the west side of the city to the bridge and to downtown.

Businesses along Truax Blvd and Jeffers Rd say they could see the benefits from the project.

“I think it would be great for our business. We would get more walk traffic, more bike traffic. It would be safer for kids to get to and from downtown area. You know the farmers market is huge down there,” said manager of May’s Floral Angie Willier.

May's Floral is just down the street from where the High Bridge trail would start.

“For my business, personally just the extra added advantage of getting people that don’t have cars, that are biking or bussing, that they can get to the west side now,” she added.

Solberg said the idea is create a means of transportation for pedestrians, taking something old and unused and making it new and functional.

“The High Bridge project takes an existing rail bridge that's over 100-years-old, removes the track from the top and puts a multiuse surface that walkers and bikers can cross the Chippewa River and also puts in safe rails so we don't have to worry about people injuring themselves,” said Solberg.

The project includes a flooding plan for some homes on the west side. A storm sewer would run down the railroad and into the Chippewa River.

He said students who go to Roosevelt Elementary, employees Nestle and other businesses in the area would be able to get on the trail, cross the Chippewa River, come down Forest St and access Phoenix Park.

“We've just come in agreement with the property owner, now city council has to weigh in on the actual purchasing of the property and weigh in on the project itself. So we're still proceeding with plans but the city council has the ultimately have to approve the project,” said Solberg.

The city council would make the decision sometime in the summer, and if approved the project would start right away. The goal is to have it completed by the end of the year or Memorial Day in 2015.

Solberg said the High Bridge project would cost a little more than a half a million dollars. But thanks to a state and federal grant, around 80 to 90 percent would likely be covered. As for the trail project and the storm water project west of the river, city funds would be used.

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