After almost four decades of use, the City of Gillette is rethinking the Gurley Overpass, prompting city councilmembers to move forward with another planning study voting 5 – 0 Tuesday to approve a Professional Services Agreement with Nebraska-based engineering firm HDR, Inc. in the amount of $121,984.44 for a Gurley Railroad Overpass Planning Study.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) will cover $50,000 of the study’s expense, with the other $71,984 coming from the city’s share of the Optional 1% Sales Tax fund.
Built in 1982, the overpass serves as the primary route for commuters to get to and from areas north of the city and is an important travel route for emergency vehicles in the event train traffic has other roadways blocked.
Like anything else that gets a lot of use, the overpass has aged and has required increasingly more frequent maintenance, according to City Administrator Pat Davidson, who addressed the issue before the Gillette City Council at their regular Tuesday night council meeting at City Hall. He pointed out that maintenance had been required on the bridge at decreasing intervals, with separate maintenance projects completed in 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Anticipating the need for a new overpass at a different location, the city began setting aside $1 million per year beginning in 2019 to offset the cost of a new overpass, according to City of Gillette Communications Manager Geno Palazzari. The city will have $3 million saved toward the project as of fiscal year 2021, he said. The city has spent approximately $4 million on maintenance, repairs and inspections of the overpass since 2009.
“As a bridge ages it requires additional maintenance over a shorter period of time,” Davidson said.
--Advertisement--Story Continues Below
In 2008, a comprehensive study was conducted by HWS Consulting Group Inc. and HDR, Inc. to look at some alternative locations for crossing the BNSF railroad tracks. The study provided some preliminary alternative routes along with a general cost estimate of each.
Among the potential projects examined in the study were crossings from Butler Spaeth Road to Spruce Avenue, with an estimated cost of $12.03 million, 4-J Road to Warlow Drive, estimated at $8.9 million, Butler Spaeth to Warlow Drive, at approximately $11.2 million, and a two-phase replacement of the existing overpass at its current location at an estimated cost of $13.3 million, according Palazzari. These figures are 2008 dollar figures, he said. An additional $2.5-4 million dollars on each project could be estimated to match today’s dollars.
The new study will take into account the changes in traffic patterns and usage today from those in 2008 and will provide an environmental impact overview of each prospective location, Palazzari said.
The city should have a report from HDR within 150 days, at which time a decision will be made regarding which actions to take.