Rural Bridge Collapse Sparks Calls for Statewide Inventory, Safety Assessment

The Wisconsin Towns Association is calling on lawmakers to fund a statewide assessment of small bridges. The ask comes after a century-old creek crossing in northern La Crosse County collapsed under a fertilizer truck April 15.

Mike Koles, executive director of the Wisconsin Towns Association, said federal regulations require an inventory and regular safety assessments of bridges over 20 feet. But there are no requirements for structures under that length.

Koles estimates there are up to 25,000 of them across the state. The Towns Association is asking the state Legislature to include funding for a statewide inventory and safety assessment of these crossing, which Koles said states like Minnesota and South Dakota have already completed.

“That’s going to identify how big of a problem this is, where the problem is,” he said.

Koles said his organization is also asking state lawmakers to make supplemental funding through the local road improvement program a permanent part of the budget. He said local communities rely on these programs to pay for large construction projects. And he said rural communities could use financial help paying for grant writers to prepare their applications.