Mar 3, 2015

Work on new Willwood Bridge - a $6 million project - to start soon

After years of planning, work to build a new Willwood Bridge is about to get underway.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation began seeking bids on the project this month. The department plans to open them March 12 and choose a contractor the following week.

Construction on the new bridge over the Shoshone River will begin this year and likely be finished by fall 2016, said Cody Beers of Riverton, District 5 spokesman for the Transportation Department.

This bridge will be replaced by a new one, located a short distance upstream. Photo by Ilene Olson
It will be built a short distance upstream of the existing one-lane bridge over the Willwood Dam; the nearly century-old structure, which has been deemed “structurally deficient,” will remain in place, but with restricted use.

The project is estimated to cost about $6.08 million. The vast majority of the bill will be covered by federal dollars through the Bridge Replacement Off-System Program, with Park County required to pitch in $578,000, or 9.51 percent of the project cost.

“There’ll be a lot going on in this next year,” said Park County Engineer Brian Edwards.

“Depending on the contractor, dirt work may happen this summer,” Beers said. “Work in the river (substructure and piers) may begin this fall and continue through the winter; girders will be set and the bridge deck concrete pour will likely occur next spring.”

That timeline could change, based on the contractor’s schedule, he said.

Much of the construction will take place during the early spring and late fall seasons in order to work around irrigation seasons, he said.

“The new bridge and road will be offline from the current bridge and road, so there won’t be much need for traffic control,” Beers said. “The contractor will be able to do most of the work away from the road.”

Willwood Irrigation District Manager Tom Walker said the district’s plan to lower the level of the Shoshone River to get a good look at the sluice gates behind the dam is separate from the bridge construction.

Beers said WYDOT will cooperate with the district during the bridge project.

“There’ll be a lot going on in this next year,” said Park County Engineer Brian Edwards.

After the new bridge is built, the existing one likely will be closed to through traffic, though it will remain available to the irrigation district, Walker said. 

“The county realizes that the district’s still going to need the old bridge,” he said, though some details still must be worked out.

“We don’t want to be liable for it,” Walker said. “If the county still owns the bridge and something happens to the bridge, we don’t wan the county to come back saying, you need to repair it.”

Edwards said the county has not yet had discussions about what it wants to do with the old bridge, but he personally hopes there will be some opportunities for restricted public access, such as fishing.

Walker said he’s heard the Bureau of Reclamation has plans to expand the recreation area below the dam.


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