City Conquers Decades-Old Divide With Breakthrough Pedestrian Bridge Project

What began decades ago as a footpath across railroad tracks, this bridge now spans an active rail yard, and bikes and pedestrians can cross safely.

pedestrians crossing bridge

Today, the Bud Hendrickson Bike Trail and Pedestrian Bridge connects two communities—the north and west side neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin. But the origin of the bridge began many decades before.

In the 1950s, Bud Hendrickson began putting leaves and grass clippings between the railroad tracks as passages for area residents to cross over. As the years went by, the passages became unofficial trails.

But they wouldn’t last forever.

The popular paths were eventually closed down due to safety concerns. And the rail yard was fenced in, shutting off two access points between the two neighborhoods in the City.

Then, in 2012, the City made plans to reopen this important connection and completed a bicycle/pedestrian master plan with a new pedestrian bridge as a focal point. But how would they build a bridge over a highly active rail yard?

Assembling a 1,100-foot bridge amid dozens of moving trains

Because the BNSF rail yard services between 60 and 100 trains each day, rail traffic could not be shut down for concrete and construction workers to pass through.

Workers instead pumped concrete underneath the rail yard through an existing stormwater culvert next to the site. Then, a crane in the middle of the area pumped the concrete to the bridge site.

Workers also negotiated environmental concerns during construction. The rail yard passes through a significant wetland, making hauling heavy equipment difficult.

The City of La Crosse and SEH have recently been recognized by the American Public Works Association with a Project of the Year Award for their work on the Bud Hendrickson Bike Trail and Pedestrian Bridge.

Features

  • Four-span prefabricated steel truss bridge sections spanning 500-feet over two mainline railroad tracks, and eight additional rail yard tracks.
  • Seven-span pre-stressed concrete girder land bridge sections adjoined the west side of the steel truss portion of the bridge, and brought the trail back down to the existing grade.
  • Approximately one-mile of asphalt bike path connects northeast La Crosse with the City of Onalaska for bicyclists and pedestrians.

SEH Services

  • Construction oversight services
  • Railroad coordination during construction activity

Awards

  • Project of the Year Award | American Publics Works Association (APWA)

About the Expert

Tim Reichgelt

Tim Reichgelt is a professional engineer with 10 years of experience in civil and transportation engineering. He brings his experience working with WisDOT to several structural projects, including bridge replacement, highway relocation, rehabilitation and resurfacing as well as construction inspection and oversight. Contact Tim

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