Single heavy load caused partial collapse of Paint Creek Bridge

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TOWN OF LAFAYETTE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Joyce Kandler hoped the fish were biting Monday.

But the Cadott native noticed things in the Town of Lafayette near Lake Wissota were quiet.

"Yes. Too serene. Too serene," she said to WEAU 13 News on Monday.

For the past week, the paint creek bridge has been shut down after a partial collapse.

"Maybe for a lot of people, it's a little country road to them, but it's a very important route for shortcuts and stuff like that to get where you're going," Kandler said.

Town board chair David Staber spent much of Monday at the bridge, and now knows what caused the bridge failure.

"It wasn't the weight of the bridge that collapsed it,” he said to WEAU 13 News on Monday. “It was a heavy load going across it that caused this problem."

Staber said the incident happened sometime on either May 11th or 12th.

Damage was clear to see on the west side of structure Monday, but pictures released to WEAU 13 News showed the extent of damage underneath the water and those images have greatly alarmed local leaders. The images from the Wisconsin DNR show how much the bridge supports shifted.

"After seeing the videos with the pictures that they took off the bridge pilings, I wouldn't go under this bridge," Staber said. "We're going to put extra buoys out here, warning people about not going under the bridge and we're putting signage on the bridge cautioning people not to go under it. If they go under it, it’s at their own risk."

Staber said homeowners east of the bridge will be impacted during the tear-down of the damaged bridge and construction of a new passage.

The Town of Lafayette board met Monday night approved sharing the cost of demolishing the damaged bridge with Chippewa County. Staber said they hope the old bridge is removed by Fourth of July weekend, with a new bridge open by July of 2019.

"It still had quite a bit of life left to it. It was good for quite a few more years. With the bridge replacement program, this was supposed to have been replaced in 2021 right now, but we can't wait until 2021 to get a new bridge in place here – not with the amount of traffic that uses this bridge."

Now, Kandler and others wait for a new Paint Creek Bridge to rise.

"People want nice and quiet stuff, you know. I would have that bridge built back,” she said. “If you like country roads Suburban put back together.”