Narrow bridges

Snowmobile bridges will get a makeover | News

A snowmobile bridge over Lower Pine Creek near Ridgeland is among those scheduled for replacement this year as part of an ongoing plan to maintain infrastructure along Barron County’s snowmobile and RV trails .

The bridge replacement program is expected to be one of the items to be discussed at the next meeting of the Barron County Board of Supervisors’ Property Committee. The meeting is currently scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, February 28, 2022, at the County Government Center.

The Ridgeland area bridge “is located southeast of the intersection of Wisconsin Hwy. 25 and County Highway. A, north of Ridgeland,” said Barron County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Wolfe, who is the department’s recreation deputy and recreational trails coordinator.

The inspection was carried out by Boyceville engineer Dan Fedderly in May 2020, and the bridge “clearly had issues (at the time),” Wolfe added.

“I wrote a grant last year to completely replace the bridge…which was also approved in 2021,” he said.

According to the minutes of the January 31 Property Committee meeting, there are currently approximately 45 bridges in the Barron County ATV/snowmobile trail system, and many are likely in [deteriorating] state.

“There are few or no technical records or carrying capacities for the existing bridges,” the committee learned. “There may be the option of a grant for some of the repairs in the future, but not for immediate repairs.”

After discussing how to proceed with the repairs, the committee asked staff members to come back with a cost estimate and funding options at the February 28 meeting.

“Our bridges range in age from 1980s to new to just a few years old,” Wolfe said.

Many bridges were built in the 1990s “and are coming of age [where they] need some maintenance, like new decking and railings,” he added.

“We recently had nine bridges inspected. Two were recommended for replacement due to the load capacity versus the weight of the tractor that maintains the snowmobile trails.

Additionally, one of the bridges required structural work, and seven were recommended for replacement of the bridge and railings, Wolfe added.

On Friday, Feb. 18, engineer Dan Fedderly said load limits are a concern for snowmobile and ATV decks due to the weight of trail preparation equipment.

He said Ohio State had recently experimented with replacing recreational bridges using decommissioned wind turbine blades.

“But turbine blades are only available for very narrow application and span length,” Fedderly said. “They are not suitable for motorways, for example. They may be suitable for snowmobile trails, but there is a concern about the weight of trail grooming equipment.

According to a Feb. 11 online article posted on the website of The Verge, a Washington, DC-based company owned by Vox Media, old turbine blades have been used to reinforce pedestrian bridges in Ireland and Poland.

Blades provide ready-to-use reinforcement beams for bridges. Their use helps prevent old blades from ending up in landfills, the story adds.

“In the right situations, (wind turbine blades) could work on multimodal recreational trails,” Fedderly said.

The key, again, is how much weight the blades will need to support, he added.