The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has secured a $6.75 million federal grant for the final phase of a project to rehab the Merrimac Bridge between Columbia and Sauk Counties.
WisDOT said the grant will cover about half of the remaining cost of improving the rail bridge, which spans the Wisconsin river. The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA, program.
WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said the federal grant will free up about $5.8 million in state funding, money that can now be used to preserve freight rail bridges and do other bridge work.
“The Merrimac Bridge project had to compete with many others nationwide for this funding. We appreciate the efforts of Senator Tammy Baldwin help secure these federal dollars for our state,” he said in a statement.
Wisconsin & Southern Railroad carries about 288,000 tons of freight over the Merrimac Bridge, to and from Sauk County, every year. The bridge is part of the Madison-Reedsburg line, which Wisconsin acquired in 2014 from the Union Pacific Railroad.
It’s Sauk County’s only connection to the national freight-rail system and is an important link for businesses in Rock Springs, Baraboo and Reedsburg, many of which rely on the bridge to ship raw materials and finished products.
The project is expected to make the century-old bridge last another 40 years and increase its carload capacity to 286,000 pounds moving at 25 miles per hour. Work on it is scheduled to begin next year and wrap up in 2022.
Thompson said the rehabilitation project will be cheaper than a previous plan to replace the bridge.
“Our current repair project will strengthen the bridge and extend its life while achieving significant cost savings,” he said in a statement.Follow @natebeck9