Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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WIS 116 Wolf River Bridge (village of Winneconne) - Need/purpose

Sidewalk deterioration on the bridge.

Why is this project needed?

The need for a new Wolf River bridge is due primarily to its regional importance and deficiencies with the existing bridge.

Bridge deficiencies

The primary need is the bridge’s structural and functional deficiencies. The Wolf River Bridge, constructed in 1934, is approaching the end of its useful life. Average bridge service life is 50 to 75 years. This bridge has been in service for 76 years, and most of the primary elements of its structural, electrical, and mechanical systems are original.

As the bridge ages, the frequency of major repairs is expected to increase. The National Bridge Inventory has identified the Wolf River Bridge as deficient based on its sufficiency rating and the bridge will require major rehabilitation or replacement by 2017.

As the new bridge location continues to be studied, deficiencies of the existing bridge includes the following important issues:

  • Non-redundant bascule bridge span
    • The bridge’s bascule span is a two-girder, non-redundant span, now considered to be an undesirable method of construction.
    • Failure by damage, overload, or fatigue to one of the girders would result in failure to the entire span. Because the bascule span is fracture-critical or non-redundant, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) inspects it annually.
      • Annual inspections have determined the bridge is safe for travel.
  • Aging of concrete
    • The concrete of the two abutments, six approach piers and two larger bascule piers exhibit spalling, cracking, and exposed reinforcing steel.
    • All piers are situated underneath deck joints. Leakage through the joints over the years has caused deterioration in the substructure concrete.
    • Previous concrete repairs were made to all piers, but the condition of those repairs is fair to poor.
  • Functionally obsolete
    • The WIS 116 Bridge is classified as functionally obsolete due to its narrow deck width.
      • Annual inspections have determined the bridge is safe for travel.

Bridge openings and traffic

From 2004 to 2007, the WIS 116 Bridge over the Wolf River was opened an average of 2,010 times each year for a total of 5,583 minutes (93 hours). The average opening time for the bridge from 2004 to 2007 was 2 minutes, 47 seconds. Compared to other bridges in the region, the WIS 116 Bridge is opened significantly more often.

Bridge opening times and traffic arrival can vary widely, thus affecting queue lengths. During the peak hours, average back-ups extend to about 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue (500-600 feet). Local businesses have noted instances of queues extending beyond 6th Street and 6th Avenue.

As traffic increases, the average backup increases. Average daily traffic volumes are 5,900 west of the bridge and 8,600 east of it. By 2035, volumes are expected to be 7,600 west of the bridge (a 29 percent increase) and 11,600 east of the bridge (a 35 percent increase).

Although emergency services coordinate with the bridge tender, the sheer number of times the bridge opens increases the likelihood of a bridge opening during a response.

System linkage and route importance

The location of the WIS 116 Wolf River crossing is vital to residents of Winneconne and the surrounding region. The next nearest Wolf River system crossings are the US 41 bridge over Lake Butte des Morts 9.5 miles to the southeast and the US 10 bridge near Fremont 19.5 miles to the north.

In this growing corridor, the WIS 116 river crossing is a critical link, allowing residents to travel to Oshkosh and the Fox Valley on US 45 and US 41. The crossing is vital to many daily functions of those living in the Winneconne area including: access to employment, educational facilities, retail, health care providers, recreation, and trucking access. These functions are also important for Winneconne’s economy.

At the local level, WIS 116 connects the village’s residential, commercial, and industrial development and provides access to community resources and services on both sides of the Wolf River. The village’s fire and police departments, both on the west side of the river, depend on the crossing to reach emergencies on the east side.

The community’s high school, middle school, and elementary school are located on the east side of the river. There are employment opportunities on both sides of the WIS 116 bridge.

Project benefits

This project will address the existing deficiencies of the WIS 116 Wolf River bridge in Winneconne and make it safer for the future.

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Last modified: July 10, 2013

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