Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Longest Bicycle Bridge in Wisconsin Hits Construction Milestone

November 14, 2016
Stephanie Miller 608-267-8823
County Executive

Today Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and local officials toured the construction site after the final link of boardwalk was placed over the water connecting Dane County’s Lake Farm County Park with McDaniel Park in the Village of McFarland at the much anticipated Lower Yahara river trail. The nearly two and one half mile first phase of the project includes over 1 mile of bridges and boardwalk. When completed in the summer of 2017 it will be the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge and boardwalk that has never been used by trains or motor vehicles in Wisconsin.


“Once completed this will be an incredibly beautiful and popular bicycle trail,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Dane County has some of the best biking trails and access in the world, it is an important component to our quality of life.”


The bridge span being placed over the Yahara River navigation channel is 100 feet long, 12 feet wide and weighs just over 50,000 pounds. It will nearly complete the western bridge structure which  is 1200 feet long and 12 feet wide. The western bridge includes (2) 10 feet x50 feet ADA accessible viewing platforms, one is immediately west of the channel, the other approximately 500 feet to the east of the channel. The eastern bridge span is now complete, it is 1050 feet  long and 12 feet wide. Approximately 2500 feet of boardwalk will connect in between the bridges and east to McDaniel Park in the Village of McFarland. Delivery of the bridge span will require the truck driver to back more than 1.5 miles down Libby Rd. and through Lake Farm Park.


The remaining boardwalk spans will be constructed over the upcoming winter months. The elevation and materials selected for the bridges and boardwalk were designed to blend into the existing railroad corridor for minimum visual impact from the lake. Final paving and all trail construction is anticipated to be completed by June of 2017.


The Lower Yahara River Trail will eventually link Lake Farm County Park with the City of Stoughton.  The initial construction phase of the project starting this spring will be funded with approximately $4.6 million of Federal Highway Administration Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) dollars and $1.3 million of Dane County funds. The county has provided an additional $593,290 to date for design and engineering of the trail. 


The trail will also include an accessible fishing pier near the railroad trestle on Lake Waubesa along with rest stops and observation areas. Dane County Parks staff worked to clear trees from the trail corridor that will be used to build timber frame shelters at other county parks and for a fish habitat improvement project on the north shore of Lake Waubesa.


Dane County Parks has been planning in coordination with bicycle stakeholders, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Village of McFarland, City of Madison, City of Monona, the Wisconsin Historical Society, GRAEF Engineers, KJohnson Engineers, the UW Milwaukee Cultural Resource Management Department, Ho-Chunk Nation  and the Army Corps of Engineers since 2008 to design the Lower Yahara River Trail.


Following a competitive bidding process, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation awarded the contract to Janke General Contractors, Inc. located in Athens, Wisconsin for just over $5.9 million dollars.


While work progresses on phase one of the Lower Yahara Trail between Lake Farm County Park to McFarland, Dane County is continuing the momentum and will begin design on future, equally scenic phases of the project. Dane County Executive Parisi put $305,000 in the budget to develop construction drawings and cost estimates for a one mile segment of trail between Fish Camp County Park and Lake Kegonsa State Park. This second phase of the project will include a combination of paved surface, bridges, and boardwalk, similar to the first phase that’s due for completion in the coming year.


In Dane County’s 2017 budget Dane County Executive Parisi included $2 million for three new off-trail projects, more staff to accelerate design and engineering work, and dollars for nearly 25 miles of new on-road paved bike lanes paired with re-done county highways. Just this summer Dane County was awarded as one of the top bicycle counties in the country.