DARLINGTON (WKOW) — When the bridge closes in Darlington, everything changes.
“There’s a big impact on the sales in the store,” said Jeri Halvorson, store manager at the Piggly Wiggly — the only big grocery store in Darlington.
If the bridge is out, that means only half the city can easily get groceries until the bridge reopens.
“I talked to somebody today when I was loading their groceries and I said, ‘Yeah, it’s been really, really busy,'” said Halvorson. “And she says, ‘Yeah, because we were on the other side of the bridge and now we’re here trying to fill up our cupboards again.'”
Thankfully, Saturday’s rain wasn’t enough to shut down the bridge — because the bridge is the only one that connects both sides of Darlington. The closest alternative routes are a 30-minute detour in either direction. That means when the bridge closes, schools have to shut down and downtown businesses suffer as well.
“It has a monetary impact on the whole community,” said David Gough, city council president and alder for Districts 1 and 2, which include the bridge area.
The bridge is part of State Highway 23, which the Department of Transportation is planning to resurface in 2021.
Gough says the improvements won’t do enough to help with flooding.
“We asked them… about raising the approaches on either side of the bridge a foot,” Gough said. “But that costs money.”
The approaches flood first and while raising them wouldn’t stop a major flood, Gough argues it would help with smaller floods.
“It would keep from closing the bridge because the approaches on both sides are quite a bit lower than the bridge itself,” he said.
No one from the Department of Transportation was available Saturday to comment on the WI-23 construction project, though the project timeline says plans won’t be finalized until spring.
While city officials continue to work toward solutions, flooding in Darlington has set in as a way of life.
“I think it’s just kind of natural for Darlington,” Halvorson said. “You know it’s like, here comes the water again.”