There are wide loads — then there are W-I-D-E loads.
Washakie County drivers had to make way for a 25-foot-wide bridge this week that was on its way from Cottonwood Creek south of Worland to the Galloway Ranch north of Ten Sleep.
The historic Winchester Bridge, which is nearly 100 years old, was recently sold to the ranch by Washakie County, and the 90-by-25-foot structure was hauled 40 miles to its new home north of Ten Sleep on Tuesday.
“They'll use it for moving livestock and moving vehicles back and forth,” said Cody Beers with the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
The bridge was deemed unsafe for public travel in a recent WYDOT inspection, but rather than haul it off to the scrapyard, county commissioners chose to sell it to the highest bidder.
“From the county perspective, we either had to look at taking it to the foundry or look at finding a way to dispose of it,” Washakie County Commissioner Aaron Anderson told Cowboy State Daily.
How much does a bridge cost? Apparently, as much as someone is willing to pay.
In this case, Galloway Ranch LLC paid the county $1,100, but also incurred additional costs to move the structure, as well as what it will cost to make the bridge usable again.
“They're going to have to do some work to the bridge,” said Beers. “I mean, there's no deck on the bridge. Right now, it's just a big piece of iron.”
Despite its bargain price, the county considered the sale a better option than either donating the bridge to the Washakie County Museum (which would have cost the county around $86,000, since the lead paint on it would need to be scraped off first) or taking it to a foundry to be disposed of, which would cost around $29,000.
“The structure was still in pretty good shape, and once all the weight of the concrete deck was removed off of it, we decided that we were going to look into putting the bridge up for bid,” said Anderson.
Beers said the bridge began its 40-mile journey Tuesday morning around 9.
“They basically used cranes to lift it up, then backed the truck underneath and made sure that it was sitting with an equal amount of the bridge hanging out each side of the truck so that you've got good balance, and then they tied it down,” he said. “But I mean, it's not like it's going to slip off the truck.”
Beers said a contractor out of Worland hauled the bridge from where it had sat for nearly a century, parading the structure through downtown Worland on its way to its new home.
“They left the worksite, which is about probably 13 miles south of Worland,” he said. “And they got out on the highway and they didn't slow down. They drove right down the main street of Worland.”
Replacing The Winchester Bridge
Anderson said the determination to replace the bridge in the southern part of Washakie County was part of the federal Bridge Replacement Off System designed to reduce the number of deficient bridges in the United States.
“That bridge, as it was set, was determined by (WYDOT) that it wasn’t adequate for that county road,” said Anderson.
And Beers said the new bridge spanning Cottonwood Creek on Washakie County Road 86 is being built now.
“The contractor has placed the corrugated steel stay-in-place concrete forms for the future bridge deck,” said Beers. “Tying of bridge deck steel is still to happen, and concrete pours are scheduled in June.”
County Road 86 is closed to through traffic while CC&G Construction out of Lander completes the $1.75 million project, which Anderson said would be paid primarily through federal funding.