Lighting equipment delay postpones opening of new section of Ice Age Trail in Portage

PORTAGE, Wis. — Those hoping to check out a new section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Portage will have to wait a few months longer due to delays in getting the equipment needed to light the path.

Supply chain issues across the construction industry have increased prices and forced projects to be delayed, and the new trail is no different, Philip Livingston, Portage’s public works director, said.

“The specific delays for this project are due to the metering and… basically output components for that lighting, and due to those delays, we’re going to hold off on opening it up just to ensure the public’s safety,” he said.

The city expects to receive that needed equipment in May or June, but Livingston hopes it can come in sooner so residents can begin enjoying the new trail.

“We’re really at the mercy of those manufacturers,” he said.

Other aspects of the project, including the installation of benches and interpretive signs, have been completed.

Work began on the trail between Adams Street and the railroad tracks at the end of East Mullet Street earlier this year, but efforts to revitalize the Portage Canal have been underway for decades, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Once it opens, the trail will provide an additional leisure and recreational amenity for Columbia County’s largest city.

“It breathes… just a ton of life into the area itself,” Livingston said. “I think that recreation is just huge and all communities throughout the state are constantly looking for ways to improve their recreation opportunities for the public, and this offers just that.”

Elsewhere along the canal, efforts are underway to save a pedestrian bridge that had been slated for removal after a new bridge was built nearby.

The wood and metal bridge, which sits adjacent to the Riverwood Apartments and connects West Mullet and West Edgewater streets, is in need of significant repairs.

Following a public outcry from nearby residents, many of whom are older and some who have disabilities, about plans to remove the bridge, the city contracted with a local engineering firm in October to inspect it. That inspection, Livingston said, found many of the main girders are still in good shape but other parts of the bridge like the decking and webbing are corroding due to salt use.

RELATED: Portage residents concerned about possible removal of pedestrian bridge near downtown

Earlier this month, the city’s Municipal Services and Utilities Committee decided to move ahead with making repairs to the bridge rather than removing it. Removing the bridge was expected to cost around $32,200, which was included in the city’s 2023 capital budget; the repair option the committee chose is expected to cost around $36,000 and extend the bridge’s life another approximately ten years, according to a memo from Livingston to the committee in late November.

That effort is separate from the Ice Age Trail project, Livingston said.