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Posted: July 23, 2015 Xcel Energy gets jump on Water Street bridge replacement

By Elizabeth Dohms

Work on the replacement of the Water Street bridge won't start until after Labor Day, but Xcel Energy is getting a head start by removing natural gas pipes attached to the current bridge.

When the nearly 70-year-old span is replaced at a cost of about $7.2 million, the outdated system of using bridges to hold gas pipelines also will be removed, said project manager Tara Weiss of the state Department of Transporation.  She added the city will share the cost of decorative lighting, sanitary, and water work.

Kristen Hofacker, field operations supervisor for Xcel Energy, said crews worked Tuesday to drill a hole from Park Avenue underneath the Chippewa River and to the west sie near First Avenue.  The drilling will take three to four days to prepare for the influx of piping.

The pipes, which will be welded together in the UW-Eau Claire parking lot on the north side of Water Street, eventually will be pulled through the drill site and connected to the current gas main on the east side of First Avenue, Hofacker said.

"We may have to close First Avenue for a few hours as we're pulling pipe across the street," she said, adding that while the timetable for setting the pipes is fluid, Xcel should know  afew days beforehand whether it will require street closure.

One westbound lane on Summit Avenue could be closed today to clear space for the drill rig, but Hofacker siad the bridge would still be fully accessible.

Weiss said the start date for the project was set for after Labor Day to minimize disruption to incoming UW-Eau Claire students.

"The completion date is next August, prior to school starting again," she said.

At that time, the bridge will be transferred to city ownership.  Weiss said in earlier years high-cost bridges were part of state highways, or the structures were too large for municipalities to maintain them.

The Water Street bridge supports about 15,000 vehicles per day, Weiss estimated.

"It's a well-used bridge," she said.

To view the story on the Leader Telegram's website, click here.

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