The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Another footbridge?

Janie Boschma

It’s not often something more than a century old gets a new lease on life, but Eau Claire city officials said they are looking to provide just that to a recently purchased railroad bridge.

On Oct. 9, the Eau Claire City Council approved an agreement to purchase the more than 100-year-old Union Pacific Railroad bridge that crosses the Chippewa River, Public Works Director Brian Amundson said. The city plans to renovate the bridge as an addition to the city’s trail system, he said.

The agreement will have Xcel Energy footing the $71,940 bill as part of deal with the city and the railroad in order to keep a gas line that runs across the bridge operational, Amundson said. The energy company offered to buy the bridge for the city rather than having to rebuild the gas line.

“(The deal) prevents the bridge from being taken down,” Amundson said, explaining how the agreement will keep renovation options open to the city. He said the plan is to convert the railroad bridge into a pedestrian and bike path bridge, connecting it with the city’s trail system.

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Work on the project isn’t expected to begin for two to five years from now as the city looks for funding, he said.

Amundson said the purchase was important because the city wants to have as many options as possible for its citizens to cross the Chippewa River.

Sophomore Astri Mikkelson said while she likes to use the Eau Claire trail system often, she thought there are some places on the trails where improvements could be made in addition to connecting it to the railroad bridge.

“There are spots (on the trails) that are not so great,” Mikkelson said. “If you are rollerblading, you might have to take them off and walk over some spots.”

City Councilman Hal Davis said while purchasing the bridge was a good deal for the city, he worries about where the money will come from for the renovation plans.

“The problems will be associated with funding,” Davis said. “Budgets are already very tight.”

But Davis also said the city will do its best to take advantage of any possible grant opportunities that may arise to help fund the bridge renovation project.

Despite possible budget concerns, Amundson said any improvements to the trail system are likely to be seen as a benefit to Eau Claire’s citizens.

“Have investments in the trail system been beneficial to the city of Eau Claire?” Amundson said. “I would say most people would say ‘yes.'”

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Another footbridge?