Beltline bike bridge to cause closures starting Friday

$3.5 million bridge will connect south side with downtown

Published On: Jul 25 2013 07:46:00 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 25 2013 06:05:00 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Construction of a bicycle bridge over the Beltline Highway, designed to make travel safer for riders, will cause lane closures on the highway starting Friday.

The bridge, which connects the south and north Beltline frontage roads just west of the Fish Hatchery Road interchange, has been in the works for years.

The $3.5 million span will give bike riders a more direct route into downtown Madison from the south side and Fitchburg, city project engineer Tony Fernandez said.

Nighttime lane closures will start Friday in preparation for late August, when crews will install two 180-foot bridge spans.

"The Beltline will be closed completely, and they're going to try to set (the spans) in one night," Fernandez said. "It should be a pretty interesting operation."

Most of the work so far has been along the frontage roads with little impact to drivers.

The bridge is part of a four-mile project along an old Union Pacific rail line. The bike path, scheduled to be completed next year, will travel southwest from the new bridge to Seminole Highway and northeast to Fish Hatchery Road.

City staff considered extending the Fish Hatchery interchange bridge, which already has bike lanes, but concluded that bikers don't like the area because it's too busy and dangerous with vehicle traffic, Fernandez said.

"I get a lot of the concerns and complaints (from bikers), and nothing ranks higher than that interchange," he said. "It takes a pretty courageous biker to want to do it."

Bikers and walkers in the Arbor Hills neighborhood, the Madison community just south of the Beltline, said they would use the new bridge.

"A direct link to get from here to the Arboretum without having getting hit by cars or even having to worry about them, that's a great thing," said Keil Regehr as he biked home from work.

A $2 million federal grant is paying for part of the project's cost, with the city funding the rest.

The city initially bought the Union Pacific right-of-way several years ago for $2.4 million, with the state Department of Natural Resources paying half of the cost.