In Michigan, the 125-mile long Fred Meijer River Valley Rail Trail connects downtown Ionia to Saranac and is the fifth longest trail in the nation. The trail is open to hikers and bikers, with cross-country skiing allowed in some areas. When the trail was expanded an additional 17 miles into Ionia, a safe crossing for pedestrians was needed over the five-lane M-66 highway below. Since the expansion of the trail was expected to contribute to Ionia's local economy, a quick and economical solution was imperative to the success of the project.
After searching for bridge options, a 80' x 14' custom Connector® style combined with a Tied Arch, Continental® Pedestrian Truss with a cast-in-place concrete deck was selected as the best solution. The arch is connected to the bridge with customized galvanized rods with a unique galvanized clevis and turnbuckle connection design. The bridge was painted "Bulldog Blue" in honor of Ionia High School's color and serves as a welcoming gateway feature into Ionia's downtown area. The look was further enhanced with color-changing LED lights and a "Welcome to Ionia" sign. In addition, the bridge encompasses the railroad theme of the trail by including an emblem, which has a similar design as markers on the trail, and light fixtures reminiscent of those at railroad stations of the past.
M-66 was closed for one night while the pedestrian structure was installed. The structure arrived in two pieces and was then bolted together on-site and lifted into place via crane. Since the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) designated M-66 through Ionia as a super-load route, the new pedestrian trail bridge has a 20' clearance over the highway. Both the bridge truss and the cable arch are able to support the bridge load independently. The bridge approaches meet Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) standards, with a trail slope of five percent.
"Contech Engineered Solutions was involved from concept to finished product and took over four years in development," stated Scott Post, Project Manager with Prein & Newhof, the project's engineer. "Their engineering expertise throughout the concept development was invaluable to this project.”
This project was the recipient of two awards: Project of the Year in the Quality of Life category from the American Public Works Association (APWA), Michigan Chapter and the Quality of Life Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Michigan section.
"It was a pleasure for RJM Design, Inc. to be part of such a great project and tremendously talented team of designers and engineers, especially Ionia's City Manager, whose leadership and vision made the project possible," add R. James Morgan, Landscape Architect with RJM Design.
The project was funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources grants, and local dollars. The Meijer Foundation's Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Rail Trail maintenance endowment dedicated its earnings to trail maintenance, repair, and periodic inspections.
"I've never seen a project advance this fast," concluded Post. "It's an impressive project and a joy to work on. It's more and more fascinating, and more and more a community treasure."