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BNSF Builds $100M Bridge Near Bismark, North Dakota

Tue June 18, 2024 - Midwest Edition #13
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


From the west, looking east at driving sheet piles for 
cofferdam of Pier 7.
BNSF photo
From the west, looking east at driving sheet piles for cofferdam of Pier 7.
From the west, looking east at driving sheet piles for 
cofferdam of Pier 7.
   (BNSF photo) View looking south at Pier 9 pile driving.   (BNSF photo) Shown above are initial foundation pile for Pier 9. Markings on the pile indicate depth of pile in the ground, which is tracked to determine the amount of piling needed to complete the job.   (BNSF photo) Construction site viewed from northwest of existing bridge during the first construction season for the new railroad bridge between Bismarck and 
Mandan, N.D. Winter activity is 
dictated by weather, and 
mild temperatures kept crews working through most of December.   (BNSF photo) View from west side of Missouri River looking east shows the embankment of the new bridge north of the existing structure. When conditions permit, more fill will be added to complete the embankment construction   (BNSF photo) Crews construct the cofferdam for the new pier. View above of cofferdam sheet piling is from the west bank of the Missouri River.    (BNSF photo) View of the dock wall constructed on west side of the river.   (BNSF photo)

In North Dakota, crews are building a new rail bridge that will help move freight safely and efficiently over the Missouri River at Bismarck and Mandan. BNSF Railway is overseeing construction of the new single-track structure, which is being built adjacent to the current crossing.

BNSF photo

According to BNSF's website, after more than 140 years of service, the bridge has approached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced. Constructed by Northern Pacific Railway Company from 1880 to 1883, the bridge's only original elements remaining are granite pier structures. Vertical and horizontal clearances limit the size and type of rail cars that can use the aging bridge, the first to be built across the Missouri River in the Bismarck-Mandan area.

The new bridge, which faced its share of legal challenges, was designed to support heavier loads to better meet customer needs. It also will accommodate possible expansion of a second track to promote efficient freight travel, while limiting impact to the Missouri River ecosystem and local communities.

The private infrastructure project is expected to cost an estimated $100 million and is being funded entirely by the railroad company.

Recently, workers have been focused on building the bridge piers. While construction was put on a brief hold during a portion of the winter, work resumed in early spring with pile driving for Pier 9 on the west side, to be followed by work on Pier 8 near the west riverbank.

Barges have been assembled to serve as a base for equipment used during in-water construction, including long-reach excavators, cranes, bucket lifts, welders and pile hammers. With barges in place, preparation is under way for work at Pier 7, one of the two piers in the main river channel. Throughout the project, the river will always have an open channel for recreational users.

Work on Pier 7 will reportedly take place later this summer. The river piers on the east side of the channel will be built in 2025 and 2026.

In Bismarck, River Road Trail will remain open for most of 2024 for recreational users, but once crews start staging equipment and preparing for pier construction on the east side, a portion of the trail will be closed for the safety of the public for the duration of the project.

Piers on the east end of the project will be constructed mid to late-summer 2024. Spans on the east and west ends of the bridge may be hoisted in place.

Based on an agreement reached with the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), westbound trucks must exit Liberty Memorial Bridge and use the access road on DOT right-of-way adjacent to I-I94 to transport heavy machinery and material. Doing so will keep construction traffic away from local roads.

BNSF photo

Construction on the project has included clearing trees on BNSF property on both sides of the river; building an access road; working on embankment for the new bridge; and completion of the dock wall on the west side of the river. The dock wall is necessary for construction of the piers, since it allows rebar and cranes to be transferred onto barges.

Crews also have driven the sheet pile and completed the cofferdam on the west side of the river, the site of Pier 8 construction.

The new bridge is reportedly being constructed to last more than a century. It will be able to move taller and wider commodities in heavier rail cars and support industries' future transportation plans. It also will allow safer inspections by railroad workers based on the new design, as well as reduce service outages for customers.

Once the new structure begins service, the original 1,470 ft.-long bridge will be removed, despite efforts by a community group that had hoped to have it preserved and converted into a walking bridge. CEG




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