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Repairs coming on Grey Cloud Island bridge

Cottage Grove officials on Wednesday are expected to approve bridge repairs on the city's portion of Grey Cloud Island, and Grey Cloud Island Township officials say they're concerned about trucks being diverted through the township during the project.

A routine inspection by the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Sept. 8 revealed extensive corrosion on a gusset plate -- a steel piece that connects beams or trusses to load-bearing columns -- on the underside of the bridge. One of the plates had lost roughly one-fourth of its steel, said Jennifer Levitt, Cottage Grove's city engineer, defined as a "critical finding" by MnDOT.

Reduced weight limits for the small bridge go into effect next week and will remain in place throughout a $16,000 project that will add steel plating to the rusted gusset plate. The project is expected to be complete by Dec. 6, Levitt said.

The Grey Cloud Island Township Board met in a special meeting last week to hear a briefing on the bridge repairs and to approve temporarily lifting road weight restriction on township roads until Dec. 6.

Township and other local residents often refer to the bridge as "the iron bridge" or "the green bridge," which is next to a small park.

The problem for the township is additional wear on Grey Cloud Island Drive and County Road 75 when trucks from Aggregate Industry's Nelson Plant carrying sand and gravel can't cross the bridge after leaving the plant because of the curtailed weight limits.

Township board chair Dick Adams said the bridge will be completely closed for three days but empty trucks on the usual route through Cottage Grove from St. Paul Park are allowed to cross the bridge.

Last June, the town board lowered the load limit on its roads from nine tons to five tons to save wear and tear on the roads and further restrict semi and double-axle dump trucks.

Board Member Paul Schoenecker said he would prefer waiting to complete the bridge repairs until the ground freezes to further protect roads in the township.

It's out of the township's hands, however, Adams said.

"They don't have that option," he said. "It's a state mandate."

The bridge needs to be repaired because of safety concerns, said Board Member Pam Dupre. "But I hate the fact that something (could) happen to the road and we'll have to pay for it," she said.

Bob Bieraugle, Aggregate Industry's property manager, said the company appreciates township cooperation. Since it's near the end of the season when the sand and gravel mine is the busiest, he said, he expects very little truck traffic.

Adams said plant manager Mark Duncan should tell truck drivers to drive down the middle of township roads whenever possible and stay away from road edges.

More maintenance on the bridge is planned for 2011, said Levitt, the Cottage Grove city engineer. The 2011 project was already in Cottage Grove's capital improvement plan and will clean, repaint and seal areas of the bridge showing rust.