BNSF wants N.D. bridge gone, but public will not let go

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
rail bridges
The NTSB released a preliminary report on a BNSF yard employee who died in the early hours of March 3.
BNSF Railway

BNSF is telling the people of Bismarck, N.D., that if they want this baby they are going to have to take care of it for the rest of its life.

A 136-year-old rail bridge that spans across the Missouri River is at the center of controversy. A group of citizens wants it restored and converted to a pedestrian/bike bridge, but BNSF would rather demolish the structure and put a new one in its place.

A study done by North Dakota State University landscape architecture professors says the converted bridge route can be done, but it will cost $6.9 million. However, BNSF is claiming other costs associated with the bridge preservation. The Class 1 says leaving the existing bridge where it is and building a new one would impact about 500 structures and cost another $8 million in mitigation measures. Then there is any upkeep moving forward. Friends of the Rail Bridge, a group in favor of keeping the old bridge, has no funds tied up for the project, but did use a $10,000 grant on the feasibility study.

A new rail bridge is still on the horizon, it is just a question of alignment. BNSF wants to demolish the 136-year-old and build a new rail bridge, which will require permits from the U.S. Coast Guard.

BNSF also says a pedestrian bridge so close to an active railroad bridge (30 ft) is cause for concern with the threat of derailments or debris falling from trains. The bridge also sits on shallow foundations and is non-redundant, meaning if one part of the bridge fails the entire span collapses.

BNSF claims it filed its concerns with the authors of the feasibility study, but those concerns were not addressed.

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Categories: Bridge/Retaining Walls/Tunnels, Class 1, Freight, News, Track Structure
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