ASCE Illinois awards Outstanding Achievement Award to BNSF Railway Bridge Project
The reconstruction of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Bridge faced numerous challenges.
It’s one of the busiest railway bridges in the region. It crosses one of the busiest sections of interstate highway in Northern Illinois. And its surrounded on three sides by public parks and, on the fourth side, a public works facility.
To overcome those challenges and deliver the reconstruction on time and within budget took careful planning, close coordination with numerous affected entities and innovative thinking by an extraordinary team of engineers and contractors.
The efforts were recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Illinois Section, which honored the BNSF Railway Bridge Project with an Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award at a ceremony in Chicago.
ASCE Illinois presents awards to engineering projects that exhibit the greatest engineering skills and represents the greatest contributions to civil engineering progress. The $96 million BNSF Railway Bridge Project was selected in the category for bridge projects in the range of $25 million to $100 million.
The Illinois Tollway thanked the BNSF Railway Bridge Project team led by Gannett Fleming as the lead design firm, structural engineer and civil rail engineer; TranSystems and H.R. Green as construction managers; and Walsh Construction as the prime contractor.
The Tollway reconstructed the BNSF Railway Bridge to accommodate widening of the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294). The I-294 reconstruction project adds a fifth lane and a flex lane and widens the shoulders to current standards. There was no room under the original 50-year-old bridge to safely add traffic lanes in both directions.
Design on the BNSF Railway Bridge Project started in 2014, with construction beginning in 2019. The project was completed on time and within budget in 2022.
The Tollway removed the existing BNSF Railway Bridge and replaced it with a longer, wider two-span steel beam structure to accommodate four tracks and allow for reconstruction and widening of I-294. The new fourth track will be used by BNSF for maintenance purposes.
One of the most impressive features of the project was reconstructing a bridge in one of the busiest transportation corridors in the region. This bridge carries near-constant rail traffic over a section of I-294 that carries approximately 200,000 vehicles a day. On average, approximately 104 Metra and Amtrak trains cross this bridge daily, as well as 52 daily freight trains.
Innovation was key to minimize disruptions to Tollway customers and rail traffic and keep the project on schedule. The Tollway ensured uninterrupted rail operations by building a temporary bypass bridge – also known as a “shoofly.” And, for the first time ever on a Tollway project, self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) technology was used to install the shoofly. SPMT technology reduced customer impact to two weekends, compared to two months of overnight and weekend lane closures with full stops typically scheduled for conventional bridge construction.
The Tollway worked in close coordination with IDOT, Metra, BNSF Railway, Cook County, as well as the villages of Hinsdale and Western Springs and the Western Springs Park District.