Pedestrian projects require engineers to coordinate between agencies, clients, stakeholders and bidders to keep the project’s design and construction running smoothly. In addition to the environmental and utility challenges discussed in “Overcoming obstacles on a complex pedestrian project” the Bud Hendrickson Memorial Nature Trail and Pedestrian Bridge project required our team to work with a number of different agencies, firms and stakeholders. Aside from clients and the public, we worked closely with the Burlington Northern Railroad and prospective bidders to be transparent on potential challenges and to keep the project budget in balance.
For most of the design process, the railroad yard consisted of one mainline track and six switching tracks that saw 40-50 trains per day. Designing the location of bridge piers to avoid these tracks and meet railroad clearance standards while addressing access and constructability concerns provided several challenges. The biggest challenge came just before final design. Seeing a significant increase in train traffic, BNSF added one more mainline track through our crossing area. Our final design had to account for the location and elevation of this new track while still meeting the other project requirements.
After the new track was constructed, the railroad yard was averaging between 60 and 100 trains per day during the final plan submission. Access and constructability were big concerns due to the amount of trains that were passing through and staging at the yard. It was incredibly difficult to plan work operations ahead of time. To help mitigate schedule and access challenges, the project team held a pre-bid meeting so that prospective bidders could ask questions about construction timelines and coordination with BNSF. The dialog at this meeting was some of the best I have been involved with and resulted in construction bids coming in approximately $400,000 under budget on a $4 million dollar project.
Though faced with various challenges throughout the project period, Mead & Hunt successfully completed this project and recently won two awards for our work. On the local level, the Bud Hendrickson Memorial Natural Trail and Pedestrian Bridge project won the Public Project of the Year from the American Public Works Association Wisconsin Chapter. This project also won the Small Cities-Rural Communities Project of the Year Structures award from APWA National.
These awards are due in a large part because La Crosse had a vision for a pedestrian pathway to keep their citizens safe, and we had a team that persevered despite the obstacles faced.