Historic bridge in Chippewa Falls to undergo repairs

Chippewa Falls, WI (WEAU) -- A historic bridge is being reconstructed after concerns that it may become unsafe to drive over.

The Rainbow Arch Bridge in Chippewa Falls has been a trademark for almost a hundred years but those years of use have eroded the metal and concrete structure.

The bridge was constructed in 1916 and placed on the national register of historic places on June 25th 1982. Since then, the Chippewa Falls community has embraced it as one of its most prominent features.

Chippewa Falls Mayor, Greg Hoffman says, “I think people use it as a representation of the city. It’s going to be 100 years old next year and a lot of people associate that bridge with Chippewa Falls. It’s one of those things that they didn't make a lot of them because there is a lot of work going into it.”

After concerns the structural integrity of the bridge may not be sound, a three-way agreement has been reached between the city, an engineering firm from Eau Claire and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. They plan to rebuild the historic bridge on Spring Street, after an almost 5 year debate.

Hoffman explains the reason for the delay, saying, "I think the reason it's taken so long is because it is historical and so they've had to do a number of studies on the bridge to study the impact of the changes to keep it historically sound and to keep as much of it as we can."

Hoffman says the repairs will cost around 300,000 dollars with most of the money being federally funded. The bridge will be converted to one-way traffic and construction should be completed by February 2015.

Hoffman also says it's so much more than just repairing a rundown bridge. He says, "I think it's a sense of pride for the community, that it's so unique. That’s what sets us apart here in upper Wisconsin, is we have a lot of unique things that people come and find of interest and I think it's important that we preserve those.”

The bridge is 20 feet wide which is not wide enough to meet modern state standards for two-way traffic, that's why the bridge will become a one-way. It will prohibit eastbound traffic from heading uphill from downtown.

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