Story and photo by Susan C. Galentine
Directorate of Public Works public relations
Stratmoor Hills Elementary School students have a new bridge to walk across on their way to and from school. The B Street pedestrian bridge, part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Carson rail yard expansion project, opened Jan. 20.
The $12.5 million expansion project, which began in October 2010, includes stronger metal rails, building a holding spur parallel to the main line to increase loading ability during deployments, and the “wye” track — a Y-shaped track arrangement used for reversing the direction of a train — being extended to increase rail car turnaround capabilities.
“The project will allow Fort Carson to deploy a brigade within 72 hours,” said Justin Scherzberg, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project engineer for the rail yard expansion. “Previously, Fort Carson was not capable of meeting this Army standard.”
During the planning stage of the rail yard expansion, the need to provide a safer means for local students walking to the nearby elementary school became obvious and the new bridge was included in the project.
“The primary purpose of the pedestrian bridge is to provide children a safe method of crossing the railroad tracks to and from their homes and Stratmoor Hills Elementary School,” said Michael Mayline, Directorate of Logistics Transportation Division chief.
“In addition, the bridge allows continuous rail operations. In the past, operations had to cease from (7- 8:30 a.m. and 1:30-2:15 p.m.) These hours were usually the peak hours for the commercial rail companies picking up or delivering rail cars.”
The bridge also eliminates the need for children to cross B Street and Loomis Boulevard to get to school. Approximately 240 students, 80 percent of the school’s population, and some of their parents, walk to the elementary school each day, said Jennifer Sprague, Harrison School District 2 public information officer.
The 249-foot, fully-enclosed bridge spans over B Street, Loomis Avenue and the rail road tracks. The pedestrian bridge is accessible by two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, each ramp consisting of six flights. The main bridge span’s structural steel is comprised of weathering steel, which will change colors as it weathers with time.
As combat operations overseas scale back, the expanded rail yard will continue to play a critical role for the installation in meeting other mission requirements.
“The future use of the expanded rail yard will continue with deployments of military units to training locations within the United States,” said Mayline. “On a rotating basis, we are moving units to and from Southern California, Louisiana, Kansas and Piñon Canyon. In addition, we will continue to deploy units to and from American seaports in support of the U.S. military mission Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.”
El Paso County is responsible for general maintenance on the new pedestrian bridge, including snow removal.