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Black Earth Creek bridges open

 

November 22, 2018



After nearly three months of losing the main artery for regional traffic, both bridges spanning Black Earth Creek are open for business. The flood waters caused by the torrential downpour on August 20 washed out two bridges in Black Earth, causing troubling travel plans for many commuting on Highway 14 between Mazomanie and Madison. The west bridge near the Shoe Box opened last week and the east bridge near the Kwik Trip opened on Friday the 16th.

Traffic had been detoured along Hwy KP, county deputies reporting heavier traffic flow and problems with speeding along the road bisecting the village. The opened bridges will allow a smoother flow of traffic along Hwy 14 and quiet things down for the villagers living along Hwy KP.

Greg Brecka, WisDOT Project Manager for the US 14 Black Earth Emergency Structure Replacement, had high praise for Kraemer North America of Plains, WI, the contractor which built the bridges. Considered an emergency project, Kraemer started construction on the two bridges on September 17, finishing the west bridge closest to The Shoe Box on November 14 and the east bridge near Hwy F on November 16, completing the two projects in under two months. “Kraemer concentrated efforts, overcoming high water and cold temps, to complete the job in under two months,” Brecka said. To reconstruct the bridges, Kraemer had to demolish the remaining structures, excavate, drive pilings, and pour concrete for the abutments, then set girders, form and pour cement for the bridge decks and walls, and do final prep for bridge opening. 425 cubic yards of concrete were poured for the west bridge, and 466 cubic yards for the east, totaling nearly 900 cubic yards of cement for the entire project. Having the same company build both bridges afforded for some efficiencies, being able to use the same crane and other equipment and personnel for both bridges.

Having both bridges open to traffic has repaired the major thoroughfare for the community. Many of the businesses have reported higher traffic on Hwy 14 and in their places of business. It was a double whammy to have the flood both damage businesses and the vehicular flow of customers. Steve Schmitt, owner of The Shoe Box for 51 years, indicated that business has picked back up now after three months since the day of the storm. “I am more than happy that the bridges are open. We had signs up for customers, and they were able to find us, but business has picked up again. It’s like Christmas in here.”

Business has picked up at other area companies, especially those located along the highway which rely on its traffic flow for customers. The Kwik Trip on Hwy 14 has felt a surge of business since the re-opening. Store leader Jeff Watkins said, “Business is back to normal now. Some of our customers don’t realize that the bridges are open yet. Last Tuesday there was an impact in the morning when the first bridge opened, but when the other bridge opened it was very impactful. We’ve almost doubled since Friday.” Watkins credited the community of Black Earth for their support during this time. “The community has been amazing,” Watkins said, the business being fairly steady. The store had to send some co-workers to four or five different stores, but now that business has picked back up, he has been able to call them back.

The Black Earth Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 20, leading the celebration of the re-opening of the bridges on the three-month anniversary of the flood. The village looks forward to an invigorated community the repaired bridges brings as they continue efforts to replace and rebuild equipment and facilities damaged during the flood.

 
 

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