Bong Bridge lane closure to negatively impact logging industry

By KBJR News 1

April 1, 2014 Updated Apr 1, 2014 at 9:15 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- The Bong Bridge between Duluth and Superior is set for westbound lane closure in May.

That closure, while necessary for safety work on the bridge, is expected to negatively impact the commercial logging industry.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials say the westbound side of the Richard Ira Bong Bridge will be reduced to one lane sometime this week.

Closure of both westbound lanes won't happen until May 5th.

Loggers say these upcoming lane closures will inhibit the flow of wood for the logging industry... an industry which has already seen negative impacts from the long, cold winter.

"It does have the potential, economically, to impact negatively both the company and the logger who harvests the wood in the first place," said Ray Higgins of the Minnesota Timber Producers Association.

The loggers are being directed to use alternative bridges but those are posted for lighter loads.

Higgins says if loggers can't transport as much wood that will force them to make more trips.

That extra cost has to be made up either by the logger or the mills.

"They can take the Blatnik Bridge, but of course they can't haul as much weight across that bridge per load," said WisDOT project manager Matt Dickenson.

Another alternate route would take the trucks over the Oliver Bridge.

WisDOT officials say that bridge can handle the weight, but that geometrics when approaching the bridge are poor.

They advise taking the other alternate routes if possible.

Higgins hopes there'll be a better solution by the start of the 2015 summer construction season.

"There's a dialogue going on between the transportation departments of both states and the timber industry, to help mitigate those impacts as much as possible," said Higgins.

Limiting the economic impact could mean a significant difference to the troubled timber industry.

The pedestrian walkway across the Bong Bridge will remain open this year, but will be closed during the 2015 part of the construction project.

Elsa Robins