Students contribute to revitalization project in Brodhead, Wis.

December 18, 2013

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Pictured left to right: Alex Birch, Andrew Beyer and Quinn Ruddell.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville students are helping to revitalize a recreational area of Brodhead, Wis. As a senior design project for the Civil and Environmental Engineering course, Andrew Beyer, of Watertown, Wis.; Alex Birch, of Waukesha, Wis.; Quinn Ruddell, of Watertown; and Stephanie Saxby of Watertown, all senior civil engineering majors, are designing a pedestrian bridge over Brodhead’s Mill Race.

The Mill Race is a man-made waterway in Brodhead that flows out of the Sugar River and eventually rejoins it downstream. The city of Brodhead is undergoing plans to restore and improve this area, turning it into the Pearl Island Recreational Corridor. In addition to the pedestrian bridge, planned additions to the area include picnic sites, nature trails, elevated boardwalks and improved waterways for canoeing and kayaking.

The UW-Platteville team met with project managers, city officials and the mayor of Brodhead in September to discuss the requirements for the pedestrian bridge. The team chose a design that reflects a traditional covered bridge — an important historic symbol to the city of Brodhead, which hosts an annual Covered Bridge Days event on the Mill Race — but with an updated style. The proposed bridge is 150 feet long and 10 feet wide. The bridge is structurally made of steel, but wood cladding on the side will give it an appearance of a wood-covered bridge.

In addition to designing the bridge, the students have been involved in every facet of the development process, including completing tests on the bearing capacity of the site’s soil, determining a budget and construction schedule, and planning for any related factors, such as necessary tree removal. Because the location of the proposed bridge is in a wetland area, they also worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources throughout the process.

“We are basically doing what an engineering firm would do,” said Saxby. “They told us the purpose of the bridge and gave us the constraints, and from there we came up with a preliminary design.”

While the project has posed some challenges — a significant one being poor soil properties on the west embankment of the bridge’s proposed site — the team agreed that being able to combine everyone’s specialties has made it a learning experience.

“We each have our own specific areas of emphasis,” said Ruddell. “We didn’t really plan it, but we just each took our own part of the project and ran with it, but we are still able to help each other out where need be.”

“Putting all these aspects of everyone’s expertise together was a good experience,” said Birch.

The team presented the final plans at a Brodhead City Council meeting this month. While the plans would still need to be approved by a certified Professional Engineer, prior to implementation, the students said they are hopeful that if they can successfully complete the legwork for the project, the transition will be smooth and their design will have a good chance of becoming a reality.  

Written by: Alison Parkins, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1526,

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