‘Urgent’ Structural Problems Lead City to Close Pedestrian High Bridge
crack in support pier has caused bridge deck to heave, city says
Bikers, boaters, and walkers alike are being warned away from the historic, 140-year-old High Bridge over the Chippewa River in downtown Eau Claire.
The bridge was first closed to the public Monday, and the city calls subsequent changes to the old railroad bridge’s condition an “urgent situation.” As a result, the city is installing fencing and water barriers to keep people away from the former Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railway bridge, which stands just downstream from the dam in Eau Claire.
According to a Wednesday afternoon media release from the City of Eau Claire Engineering Department, the city initially closed the bridge Monday to repair a railing that had been damaged by falling tree branches. “Meanwhile, a heave had been observed in the bridge deck caused by a crack in one of the piers that supports the bridge,” the statement continued. “This week an outside engineer examined the structure and recommended further investigation and repair before re-opening to the public. Since that examination, additional changes in the condition of the bridge have occurred, making this a more urgent situation.”
The bridge, which was most recently inspected in November, “will be closed until further notice,” the city said.
The 900-foot-long iron lattice truss bridge stands 80 feet above the normal river level. It carried trains until 1992, when it was abandoned. It reopened in 2015 as a pedestrian bridge as part of the city’s extensive trail system.
Here’s the full text of the city’s media release:
High Bridge Closed For Repair
The historic High Bridge, which serves as a scenic pedestrian trail crossing over the Chippewa River, will be closed until further notice in order to address a significant structural issue.
The High Bridge was initially closed to the public on Monday, June 21, in order to repair a section of railing that was damaged by fallen tree limbs. Meanwhile, a heave had been observed in the bridge deck caused by a crack in one of the piers that supports the bridge. This week an outside Engineer examined the structure and recommended further investigation and repair before re-opening to the public. Since that examination, additional changes in the condition of the bridge have occurred, making this a more urgent situation. Additional fencing and water barriers are being installed to keep boaters, pedestrians, and bicyclists away from the structure for their safety.
Every effort will be made to conserve this important piece of Eau Claire history, but the 140-year-old limestone and the nature of the bridge’s construction could mean some changes to the bridge. The High Bridge played an important part in the development of the area when it was first built and continues to play an important part of people’s leisure, health, and transportation plans today.
Eau Claire has recently become known as the City of Bridges and the City places great value on them. Our bridges are inspected regularly per State regulation, and no indication of structural heaving or damage was noted at this location upon inspection of the bridge in November of 2020.