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Cass County Board: More uses possible with Federal Dam trail bridge replacement

Photo of the damaged Soo Line Trailvbridge from Cass County Sheriff's Office facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/Cass.County.Sheriffs.Office/

BACKUS—An arson fire that burned the Soo Line Trail bridge at Federal Dam Sept. 6 could lead to replacing it with a new bridge with many more uses.

Land Commissioner Kirk Titus informed Cass County commissioners at their Tuesday, Nov. 20, meeting the wooden bridge has been closed since the fire because it is no longer safe to use.

Replacing it at its current location would cost an estimated $655,000, Titus reported.

If the trail were rerouted through the city of Federal Dam to County Highway 8, a new multi-use bridge could be built next to the highway bridge for $800,000 to $1 million, depending on materials used to build it, he said.

Locating the bridge just west of and parallel with County Highway 8 would enable the new bridge to be used by more than all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trail riders. Pedestrians, bicyclists and anglers could use the new bridge safely without having to cross the Leech River on County Highway 8, which has only 2-foot shoulders.

A few years ago, Cass County and Leech Lake Reservation completed a similar pedestrian-fishing bridge on County Highway 8 a few miles south of Federal Dam in the Boy River area.

County Engineer Darrick Anderson sees the multi-use bridge as a safety measure.

He also said building the pedestrian bridge wide enough now would enable using it for a single lane of vehicle traffic to avoid a long detour whenever the highway bridge needs to be reconstructed in the future.

The city of Federal Dam endorsed rerouting the trail to the County Highway 8 area and building the new multi-use bridge next to the highway bridge, Titus and Anderson said.

Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane said the county's insurance will pay $50,000 for the loss of the old bridge. That can be used toward the new bridge.

Titus will look for trails grants. Anderson will apply for highway grants, though two prior applications for a fishing/pedestrian bridge were unsuccessful. Leech Lake Reservation also will be asked to contribute.

Anderson said he would like to see the new bridge built in 2019, because ATVs and snowmobiles are using the narrow highway bridge in the meantime, causing a significant safety issue.