The cost to replace a bridge that burned along Star Lake could cost as much as $1 million to repair; according to the Otter Tail County engineer
A Dent man has been charged in the Sept. 6 bridge fire on Otter County Road 41 and Boathouse Drive that has left the bridge heavily charred and completely unusable.
According to Otter Tail County Engineer Charles Grotte, the wooden walkways, beams, and underdeck of the bridge have charring anywhere from a quarter of an inch to an inch deep. The bridge crosses over a narrow strip of Star Lake and was mostly wooden.
While the cost to build a new bridge has not been estimated yet, the cost will likely be in the ballpark of $500,00 to $1 million, according to Grotte.
The bridge is still closed to traffic. It is a huge inconvenience to a lot of people, Star Lake Township Chairman Lee Mindemann said. He said without the bridge, there will likely be delays in response times from first responders, as there is no good way to detour around the bridge.
According to Grotte, the official detour is a large triangle using Minnesota Highway 108 into Dent, County Road 35, and County Road 41 where the bridge was located. The detour of about 18 miles will be in place until the bridge is open to traffic.
“What we’re working on right now is we’re getting a new load rating done for the bridge to see what it will carry now in its current condition,” Grotte said. “We are working towards getting it reopened in the next two to three weeks.”
While the fire left the wooden surfaces charred, the asphalt roadway, “appears to be in good condition,” Grotte said. “It didn’t really affect that at all. The bridge has two center piers and that is steel filled with concrete, those appear to be fine as well.”
Ryan Curtis Johnson, 42, of Dent, has been charged on three felony counts: arson, possessing ammunition or a firearm after being convicted of a violent crime and possessing, making, transporting, or storing an explosive or incendiary device.
According to a Forum News Service story, 20- and 30- pound propane cylinders were found under the bridge and one floating in the water that appeared to have exploded. A matchbook was also found lying in the roadway near the bridge. The Dent Fire and Rescue crew responded to the fire and put out the flames. Witnesses had noted Johnson was upset that his dog had been hit and killed by a vehicle on Highway 41, something he expressed in several Facebook messages.
According to Grotte, when the bridge reopens, it will be open to traffic from cars, pickup trucks, and light truck traffic within the weight limit that is determined.
The bridge will not reopen until concrete barriers are put up in place of the charred railing, according to Grotte. He said the barriers are needed to reopen the bridge because if someone were to hit the current railing, it would be unsafe as the vehicle could go into the lake’s channel as a result.
The walking path of the bridge will not be reopening when the roadway does. The walking path was wooden and chard in the fire. “It needs to be rebuilt and it’s not worth rebuilding temporarily,” Grotte said.
“We hope to have it up in the next few weeks. Then we’ll be getting started on designing a new bridge and attempt to get that built next year,” Grotte said. “But we’ll have to find the money to do that.”