The City of Eau Claire hired Ayres Associates to design a replacement for the Grand Avenue bridge over Half Moon Lake. Ayres delivered a bridge beyond the ordinary for a busy facility that is one of the main entrances to Carson Park, which is considered Eau Claire’s crown jewel because of its picturesque location and the buzz of activities available there year-round.
The American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin gave Ayres an Engineering Excellence Best of State Award for the project in 2019. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation awarded the project its 2019 Excellence in Highway Design Best Local Program Project Award, and Downtown Eau Claire Inc. named it the 2018 Downtown Eau Claire Best New Development.
The result is a stately bridge and a causeway more than triple the size of the original, allowing for bike lanes, trails, and fishing accommodations with much safer separation from traffic than the previous bridge provided. The original bridge was 24 feet wide between curbs and had narrow sidewalks directly behind the curbs. The new 50-foot-long by 77-foot-wide single-span concrete slab bridge includes Americans with Disabilities Act fishing accommodations at two corners of the bridge. Aesthetic enhancements include an arched facade to pay tribute to the old bridge, simulated stone masonry, decorative railing, and stamped concrete surfaces.
Public involvement during the design was important because of the high profile nature of the project. Ayres was involved with several public meetings and made very effective use of design image renderings and fly-through animations to communicate with residents, regulators, and stakeholders about the project. A tri-lingual (English, Spanish, and Hmong) website and project advertisements were created to reach out to all concerned and impacted residents.
Much more than a bridge, this project represents a recreational facility and an opportunity to improve the quality of the lake that the causeway crosses, along with the safety and quality of life of park visitors.
The partnership among Ayres Associates, the City of Eau Claire, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the contractor, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was exceptional, and regulators were open to collaboration to find agreeable means of addressing complex permitting, increasing the causeway’s footprint, and approving a nearby disposal site for removed sediment with low levels of heavy metals. The project carefully guarded natural resources from disturbance during construction, improved water quality with greater flow under the causeway, and even provided better fish habitat with tree drops surrounding the causeway to benefit the many anglers who frequent the site.
The bridge improves the experiences of those who drive, bike, walk, and jog across it more safely; those who kayak under it with greater navigational clearance; and fishermen and people of various levels of mobility who are able to walk or roll to overlooks and fishing spots with much greater ease and safety. Lighting and user-friendly and context-appropriate landscaping also make the causeway a pleasant place for those that traverse it.