UWP students design Railroad Bridge

May 9, 2003

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Left to right: Jeremy O'Leary, Eric Price, Mark Thompson, Kristin Brunet

PLATTEVILLE - The Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission (WRRTC) has turned to UW-Platteville's senior design class to help the WRRTC return rail service to southern Wisconsin. The team, comprised of four seniors who will each graduate this May, is responsible for preliminary evaluation and offering alternatives for reconstructing a portion of the railroad bridge over the Wisconsin River in Sauk County.

Each majoring in civil engineering, the team members consist of Jeremy O'Leary, a fifth-year senior from Greenleaf with an emphasis in transportation engineering; Kristin Brunet, a fifth-year senior from Manitowoc with an emphasis in structural, transportation and geotechnical engineering; Mark Thompson, a fourth-year senior from Eau Claire with an emphasis in structural and geotechnical engineering; and Eric Price, a fifth-year senior from Altoona with an emphasis in structural and geotechnical engineering.

The team's role in the project is to redesign one span of the bridge with a length of 100 feet. While doing so, the team must also measure the maximum load capacity of the existing spans and determine if the current pillars are strong enough to support the heavy loads carried by freight rails.

Thus far, the team has spent the majority of its time researching different truss designs and alternatives to solve the problem. The remaining spans on the railroad bridge were built using the truss design and the commission prefers the new section to be designed likewise for aesthetic reasons.

The team's next step will be to compose a model of the bridge using a computer program called Rapid Interactive Structural Analysis (RISA). With this program the team can enter in various span and pillar designs with different capacity loads to determine the best solution.

Locating information, design criteria and materials has been one of the challenges faced by the group throughout the project. The team has also been challenged with staying on task with the client and communicating efficiently throughout the project. Despite routine challenges though, the team has found tremendous help by communicating with Westbrook Associated Engineers, Inc., out of Spring Green. Westbrook completed the preliminary study on the railroad bridge and has provided the senior design team with various types of information regarding the project.

The project has proved to be a learning experience in a variety of ways. The team has become familiar with railroad specifications and weight tools. Their communication and time management skills have also improved immensely throughout the span of the project. The team also felt prepared by its structures classes for providing background information in truss and pillar designs. UWP professors Mike Penn, Dave Wang and Lisa Riedle have also provided help to the team throughout the course of the project.

The team members agree that working with a hands-on project such as this provides a great view into the working world and helps prepare them for future careers following graduation.

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