On a hot July 2, about 20 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the third and final Hardwood Creek bridge at SW 11th Avenue, just west of Winnick Supply.
Built by Sunram Construction, the $1.1 million project received $680,000 of federal funding, with Washington County and Forest Lake sharing the remaining cost.
The steel truss bridge, made by Wheeler Lumber, extends 600 feet north and south of 11th Avenue (CR-83). Almost 20 feet high, the bridge has a total of 44 tons of steel and 72 tons of concrete. Retaining walls for the steep slopes north and south of the bridge use 4,200 geocells. These will eventually be covered with vegetation.
To provide access from the street, two extensions of the trail were added from the bridge to street level. Benches along the trail are coming, according to Mike Polehna, Washington County parks manager.
Washington County Commissioner Dennis Hegberg of Forest Lake, who rode his bicycle to the ceremony, said the $200,000 1994 purchase of the 10-mile rail line, from Hugo to Chisago County, was considered unnecessary by some people at the time. Now a growing number of users, plus increased traffic, show its value. With the connection to the Sunrise Prairie Trail, he said, the total distance for biking, walking, and in-line skating is 24 miles.
This bridge is the third of three built to keep trail users safe at busy intersections. The Highway 97 crossing was completed in 1997 and Broadway Avenue in 2011.
Forest Lake Mayor Chris Johnson said the new bridge is part of $40 mllion in infrastructure and traffic improvements, “one more amenity for Forest Lake. Our busiest roads are now safe,” Johnson said.
Rep. Bob Dettmer said he uses the trail in his outdoor education class. Dettmer praised the trail as a step toward preventing childhood obesity and providing safe routes to school.
In a phone conservation after the ceremony, Forest Lake High School nordic skiing coach Deno Johnson also praised the trail. The team’s summer roller ski workouts use the path on Tuesday mornings.
“We’re very lucky to have it,” he said.