Bee Branch Creek Railroad Culvert and Pedestrian Tunnel Project

Posted By: Eric Vieth ACEC WI News, Awards,

2024 Engineering Excellence Best of State

Entering Firm: Strand Associates Inc.
Client: City of Dubuque

The City of Dubuque faced a complex challenge of historic flooding issues with stringent railway requirements in the Bee Branch watershed. With a history of flash floods and tens of millions of dollars in damages, the city aimed to enhance stormwater management while connecting the Upper and Lower Bee Branch areas through an active rail yard.

Pedestrians, Trains, and Automobiles

Strand Associates navigated the site’s complexities with careful work and collaboration. The project required traversing an active railyard, a furniture store, industrial storage buildings, and the Lower Bee Branch Creek. The railyard’s delicate alignment meant terrain settling from construction must be avoided.

Microtunneling emerged as the key construction method, allowing the installation of six stormwater culverts beneath the active railyard. The existing culverts were transformed into a pedestrian tunnel, creating a safer rail crossing. This improved stormwater conveyance and connected two major pedestrian trails in the area.

Awards judge Matt Dapp said “Strand Associates did their due diligence during design and coordinated with the rail yard and conducted extensive geotechnical investigations, structural evaluations, and hydraulic analysis to minimize risks during construction. The fact that microtunneling was performed with minimal settlement of the railroad tracks to allow the rail yard to stay active throughout construction was impressive. This project not only mitigated flooding but it also converted existing box culverts to a pedestrian tunnel for citizens and visitors to enjoy.”

A Complete Solution for a Complex Situation

The project, completed in just four months, showcased creative engineering tactics that exceeded stakeholder expectations. The project stands as a testament to innovative problem-solving, providing a sustainable solution to Dubuque's complex intersection of flooding and railway challenges. 

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