Ayres provided design and permitting assistance on an accelerated schedule for a new timber deck and railings that allow pedestrians and bicyclists to use of the former Union Pacific Railroad High Bridge to cross the scenic Chippewa River between First Street and Forest Street in the City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The 1890s bridge, which provides stunning views of the river just north of downtown, is on the National Register for Historic Places, so the project required approval by the State Historic Preservation Officer.
The bridge is approximately 898 feet long, and the overall project length is approximately 1,523 feet.
Rotted railroad ties were replaced, and two large sections of 8-foot-long ties were replaced with longer ties to achieve a clear trail width of 10 feet on the bridge. Decorative, pedestrian-scale lighting poles and attractive wire screen railing were attached to the ties, and wood decking was attached to the ties at a 45 degree angle to the direction of travel to provide a smooth ride.
Five overlook platforms were constructed as part of the new deck, three facing downstream and two facing upstream. Repairs were designed to address deterioration at the abutment bearings, and the abutments were tuckpointed.
Railings protect trail users along parts of the approaches where the terrain drops off steeply from the edges of the trail.
The west approach was designed to tie the end of the bridge to the First Street sidewalk. Special attention was given to address safety for eastbound bicyclists descending from the east end of the bridge toward Forest Street. Signage warns cyclists of the steep grade, and stop signs at Forest Street further control their movement so they do not accidentally roll into Forest Street, where sight lines are diminished by curves and adjacent abandoned railroad bridge supports. This approach brings trail users to the sidewalk along Forest Street, which in turn leads them to nearby Phoenix Park and the rest of the City’s trail system.
The west approach connects the bridge to a section of trail that leads to the west side neighborhood around a Nestle plant.