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More truck traffic expected in downtown Portage as county workers seek to repair bridge on semi route

May 29, 2019 GMT

Businesses and residents can expect more semi trailers in downtown Portage in the weeks to come as trucks are rerouted as part of a bridge closure.

Columbia County Highway Commissioner Chris Hardy said the Fox River bridge on Highway E about three miles south of Dalton closed a month earlier than expected after March flooding delayed a planned construction project.

Hardy said erosion has affected the bridge. Highway workers planned to strengthen the bridge supports and remove weight restrictions of 40 tons.

Those plans were placed on hold in late March, and Hardy said his department is working with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials to get new permits to fix the bridge and reopen it by the end of June.

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Hardy said the bridge closure has affected some frequent bus and trucking routes in that area, forcing drivers to take alternative routes and add another six or seven miles to each trip.

One affected company is Alsum Farms & Produce in Friesland.

Nikki Jedlowski, Alsum’s transport logistics manager, said the company and its drivers are adjusting to the temporary road closure.

“It adds up, but we understand,” she said.

Between four and eight Alsum drivers are currently avoiding certain back roads and instead have to drive through Portage while traveling to various locations throughout the region, Jedlowski said.

The extra few miles every day lead to more wear and tear on the company’s vehicles, and some Portage residents might not be happy about being stuck in heavier downtown traffic as a result.

Construction projects are inevitable, Jedlowski said, and she expects drivers to see reduced traffic congestion in a few weeks after the Fox River bridge reopens and allows drivers to traverse their usual routes.

Flooding fallout

Hardy said in the wake of two separate waves of flooding in Columbia County between March and April, a handful of roads remain closed to the public as highway teams work to reopen them.

“At the height of all of this, we had 20 roads closed, roughly,” he said, adding 12 roads have reopened in the last month, and several more roads should reopen in the next few weeks.

Multiple residents along Blackhawk Road in the town of Caledonia still are recovering from record flooding caused by the Wisconsin River and certain roads still are closed due to standing water, Hardy said.

He urges drivers to watch out for highway teams and constriction workers on county roads.

“Watch for work zones,” Hardy said. “Move over and slow down so we can get the roads back open again.”

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