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Road salt, 'the archenemy,' forces bridge closure, construction in PhillipsSubmitted: 04/19/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Road salt, 'the archenemy,' forces bridge closure, construction in Phillips
PRICE COUNTY - Price County blames 43 years of road salt for a high-traffic bridge starting to fall apart.

Corrosion has eaten away at the Highway H bridge over the Elk Lake Chain in Phillips, and work started Tuesday to replace an aging bridge deck.

Price County Highway Commissioner Don Grande often got calls about the condition of the bridge.


"I would say right now it's weekly," he estimated. "'Hey, when are you going to fix that bridge? What's going on with that bridge? Why does the bridge look so bad?'"

Price County doesn't use much salt on its roadways, but cars have been pulling salt onto the bridge since 1975.

"The archenemy of concrete and steel is salt. It's very corrosive," Grande said.

Standards for bridge construction more than 40 years ago were different. The Highway H bridge was built with rebar that doesn't have a coating, making it susceptible to corrosion from salt. That corrosion leads to cracks in the concrete and chunks coming loose.

"When concrete comes out, it doesn't come out like a standard asphalt pothole. It comes out in large pieces," Grande said. "What happens is the first vehicle pops it loose, the second vehicle pops it up in the air, and the third vehicle hits it."

Contractors hope to finish the project by mid-August. Until then, drivers will be routed on South Airport Road, a detour of about a mile and a half.

In northern Price County, Park Falls can empathize with detours.

Last November, the Highway 182 bridge reopened after months of leaving the city split in half for months.

"[We had to] construct pretty much a brand new bridge from the water up. Well, from below the water up," said Mayor Dan Leitl.

Finishing touches like repaving, staining, building railings, and smoothing approaches will close down one lane of the bridge area for about a month this year. Those projects will start once the ground finally thaws.

"Yeah, the light is definitely at the end of the tunnel," Leitl said. "I think everybody's ready for it to just be done."

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