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Lunda Construction Co. Builds New Bridges on WIS 35/54 Over Trempealeau River

by: Debra Wood
Lunda Construction Co. builds a permanent bridge over the Trempealeau River in Wisconsin.
Lunda Construction Co. builds a permanent bridge over the Trempealeau River in Wisconsin.
As the original bridges spanning the east and west canals of the Trempealeau River on WIS 35/54 began aging, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has embarked on replacements.

“The two bridges on 35 had reached their service lives and are being replaced,” says Nick Pitsch, Project Manager for WisDOT.

About 6,800 vehicles travel on these bridges daily. EMCS of Milwaukee designed the new bridges, which are northwest of the village of Trempealeau. The canals carry some boat traffic, which remained open during construction. The water eventually flows to the Mississippi River. The east and west channels are approximately 1,800 feet apart, separated by wetlands. WisDOT worked with the state’s Department of Natural Resources to identify wetland impacts and mitigate them.

Lunda Construction Co. of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, received the $10.42 million contract to construct the new structures and take out the old bridges and piers that were built in 1956. The company was founded in 1938 and became a subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corp. of Los Angeles in 2011.

Building Temporary Bridges
The project includes reconstructing about 1 mile of approaches on each side of both bridges and replacing an at-grade railroad crossing at the western limits of the project, which will require a 14-day road closure this year. Traffic will be detoured to WIS 93 and WIS 95.

WisDOT originally planned for the contractor to build temporary roads and one-lane temporary bridges to keep traffic moving on WIS 35/54, requiring flagging operations. However, Lunda determined it could build two-lane temporary bridges, one at about 200 feet long and the other at about 400 feet long. That eliminated the need for flagging and kept traffic moving on the corridor.

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“The 400-foot temporary bridge was constructed on a curve, so our field crews worked with good direction and plans provided by our engineering group to ensure we stayed within DOT right-of-way, but also stayed out of conflict with the new structure,” says Luke Haun, Project Manager for Lunda. “The temporary bridges are steel girders with a wood deck and asphalt driving surface and temporary barrier.”

The slopes of the temporary bridges were close to the wetlands.

“Prior to construction, all project shareholders met onsite to discuss the project, review site conditions and laid out a plan on how to move forward to complete the work safely in conjunction with environmental parameters,” Haun says. “As the work progressed, there was communication being maintained between the parties to ensure they were on the same page and work was being completed as anticipated by everyone.”

Lunda completed those temporary bridges in 2021 and traffic moved to those bypass bridges at the end of October. Lunda then removed the old bridges.

“In the areas over water, the beams and deck along with pier caps were removed in large sections and moved to the roadway embankment to be further demoed and hauled to the project-approved waste site,” Haun says.

Simultaneous Construction
Work began in July 2021 with temporary fills and temporary structure construction. Lunda has worked through the winter, building bridges over both canals simultaneously. For a two-month period, the contractor had separate crews on each bridge, but now has only one working on the project.
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“It was difficult constructing the two structures through the winter months,” Pitsch says.

The west channel is a 224-foot structure that has two spans and replaces a three-span bridge. The east channel bridge is 493 feet long, has five spans and replaces a six-span structure.

Both are concrete bridges and feature a higher profile and increased grade to enhance stormwater drainage. Each bridge will carry one lane of traffic in each direction.

Lunda built temporary causeways with 3 inches of stone to work off of while constructing the bridges and pads for the crane.

“We had small support barges, but most of the work was completed from a temporary causeway at both bridge locations,” Haun says. “The causeways were built with fabric and riprap placed on the fabric with a stone cap.”

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The smaller bridge has exposed piling with a concrete cap, Haun explains. The larger of the new bridges has four piers with seals and solid shaft piers with pier caps. It is being constructed in the water using cofferdams.

The permanent bridges have a steel pile supported concrete substructure foundation and prestressed concrete girders. The decks will be concrete.

“The entire length of the new mainline construction is approximately 4,500 linear feet,” Haun says. “With the exception of the bridge decks and approaches, the rest will be asphalt.”

For the railroad crossing, Lunda will be replacing the pavement and working around the existing tracks, but making no other repairs, Pitsch says. The existing track will remain in place.

“There is no planned structure at the railroad tracks,” Haun explains. “As part of this project, we will be working with the owner of the railroad to replace the railroad crossing and approach to the crossing.”

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Lunda expects the temporary structures will be removed in October, after traffic opens on the new permanent bridges.

“Our crews and field staff have continued to show up and work hard in spite of dealing with project setbacks such as cold weather, COVID-19 or an unanticipated rain event in early March,” Haun says. “It is their work ethic, drive and passion that has made us successful on past, present and will continue to do so on future projects.”

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