Ayres Wins National Award for Creative Bridge Project

  • By Ayres
  • May 15, 2019

The American Public Works Association has selected the Grand Avenue Half Moon Lake Bridge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as one of its 2019 Public Works Projects of the Year in the Small Cities/Rural Communities Transportation category.

This national award comes on the heels of the APWA Wisconsin Chapter’s 2019 Project of the Year Award, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin’s 2019 Engineering Excellence Best of State Award, and a Wisconsin Department of Transportation 2019 Excellence in Highway Design Award for Ayres Associates’ design work on the project.

Our team used design image renderings, creative engineering, and inventive problem-solving to design a structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing replacement bridge at an entrance to one of Eau Claire’s signature attractions: Carson Park. The project, completed in 2018, required extensive permitting, regulatory involvement, and public outreach.

The original bridge, built in 1933, had become structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The narrow bridge posed safety concerns, and bridge deterioration qualified it for federal bridge replacement funding.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Dave Solberg, Eau Claire’s city engineer. “We put right in the request for proposal … that it wasn’t going to be just a bridge replacement with a sidewalk on each side. We wanted something our residents would be proud of for generations to come and that would develop into a community gem – which it has.”

Public involvement during the design was critical because of the high-profile nature of the project. Ayres worked extensively on public outreach, developing a tri-lingual (English, Hmong, and Spanish) project website and flier to share information with affected residents near the project site and creating detailed renderings and “fly-through” animations to help stakeholders visualize the finished product.

Ayres’ designers were able to more than triple the footprint of the causeway over Half Moon Lake, an oxbow lake that wraps around most of Carson Park. As a result, bicyclists have designated lanes to ride in, and anglers have various locations to fish from, including Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant accommodations. Pedestrians no longer have to walk alongside live traffic, kayakers have more headroom, and motorists have a structurally sound passageway into the park.

“It’s been a rather dramatic improvement for the community,” said project manager Dan Sydow, PE, a structural engineer at Ayres. “It was scary how close everything used to be to the road. Now the various spaces are separated and defined.”

The project is accented with aesthetic enhancements such as simulated stone masonry, an arched façade, decorative railing, limestone seat walls, flagstone pavers, native plantings, and stamped concrete surfaces.