SEH Trail Project Earns 2019 Best of State Award from ACEC-WI

February 19, 2019

In celebration of Engineers Week, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin (ACEC-WI) has released its 2019 Engineering Excellence Award Winners – presenting SEH with the exclusive Best of State Award for the Lower Yahara River Trail (LYRT) project in Dane County, Wisconsin.

The LYRT’s 4,900 linear foot boardwalk/bridge system (pictured above) is the centerpiece of this project. In fact, the structure is now the longest of its kind in Wisconsin and one of the longest elevated structures in the entire U.S solely for bicycle and pedestrian use.

The Best of State Award is presented to entries that “represent the highest degree of technical innovation, client satisfaction and contributions to the engineering industry.” Entries were judged by an objective panel based on meeting the clients’ needs, innovation, future value to the engineering profession, as well as socio, economic and sustainable design considerations, among other criteria.

“The Lower Yahara River Trail project was not only impressive from an engineering standpoint, but also from its constructability challenges and the social impacts to the southeast Madison and McFarland area,” said Awards judge Jake Ehmke. “This project was well worth the wait!”

SEH partnered with Dane County to lend support during phase 1 of the Lower Yahara River Trail. This 2.5 mile section of bicycle and pedestrian trail extends from McDaniel Park in McFarland, through the Capital Springs Recreation Area to the Capital City Trail in Madison. Phase 1 is the initial segment of a planned 11-mile trail that will eventually connect Madison to Stoughton, bolstering the County’s impressive 150 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails.

As previously noted, the centerpiece of Phase 1 is a nearly one mile long boardwalk/bridge system that parallels an active railroad located on the north shore of Lake Waubesa and features a unique, ADA-accessible fishing pier. Due to its challenging location – through forest, over wetlands, soft soils and Native American burial grounds, along a lake, next to railroad tracks – the boardwalk/bridge system utilizes three different types of structures: floating boardwalk supported by non-penetrating pads, helical pile boardwalk, and prefabricated bridge span structures placed on concrete piers supported by cast in place concrete steel piling.

Related Content: Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail Case Study: 11 Actionable Strategies to Put to Use on Your Next Project

Given the environmental sensitivity of the project location, the team was careful during clearing operations to preserve the native Swamp White Oak trees wherever possible. All removed trees were either donated to the Ho-Chunk Nation for the purpose of building canoes, or placed in the water along the shore of Lake Waubesa to form fish habitat. Further, the decking material used to construct the boardwalk was manufactured from recycled materials – it is estimated that this manufacturing process kept 1.7 million plastic bottles out of landfills.

“The Lower Yahara River Trail is a true testament to the values and goals of Dane County in providing ADA-accessible connectivity for non-motorized modes of transportation,” said Project Manager Jason Isaacson. “Coincidentally, it also provides safe access to the beautiful Lake Waubesa and serves as a direct link to experiencing the history of Dane County.”

The history Jason references is that of the Ho-Chunk Nation and their use of this land as burial grounds, which greatly influenced the project design and construction. Successful completion of Phase 1 of the LYRT makes it possible for the Ho-Chunk Nation to access an area that is culturally significant to their people, and provides the opportunity to recognize and educate future trail-goers about Dane County’s heritage.


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