Laramie’s First Viaduct Opened in 1930
After more than 60 years of bumping over seven parallel railroad tracks (with occasional mishaps), the people of Laramie decided it was time to build a bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad.
o in 1929, construction began on the first viaduct in Laramie, at University Street. The UPRR and the City shared the $190,000 cost. Some older buildings that had been located along University near First Street were removed to make way.
One building that had to give way was the home and rooming house of Laramie pioneer Martha Boise. In 1870, she became the first woman in the US to be appointed as a bailiff. Had Martha’s home remained, it might have become a shrine to a notable Wyoming woman. Now she is honored with a display at the Wyoming Women’s History House nearby, at 307 S. 2nd Street.
When the University Street viaduct opened, the grade level crossings at Grand, Fremont and Lyons Streets were closed forever. The opening viaduct dedication was in January of 1930. It is traditional in Wyoming to refer to an elevated roadway over train tracks as a “viaduct”, though WYDOT prefers the term “bridge”.
At the same time that this viaduct was being built, a steel pedestrian bridge was constructed at Garfield Street. Still in service, the footbridge was recently upgraded with lighting as a project initiated by Laramie Main Street, an organization established in 2005 to preserve and revitalize Laramie’s downtown.
The University Street viaduct had a shorter life than the footbridge. After 33 years in service, it was replaced in 1963 with another that was two blocks further north, at Clark Street. A glance down University street on both the east and west sides of the tracks will reveal newer buildings than adjacent blocks. They were built when demolition of the viaduct made building sites available there once again.
The remaining grade level crossing on the south edge of Laramie became unnecessary in 1963, when the I-80 by-pass through Laramie was opened, providing a four-lane crossing over the railroad tracks. The Curtis Street viaduct/bridge at the north end of Laramie was also constructed by WYDOT in 1963 as part of the access to north 3rd Street from I-80.
After 50 years of service, the Clark Street viaduct is slated for demolition by WYDOT. Community consensus finally has been obtained to build its replacement at Harney Street, as reflected in the March 6, 2012, vote of Laramie City Council to support the Harney location. The route was selected after much debate among several alternatives. Although not completely laid out yet, the route will go southwest after crossing the tracks at Harney, to connect with the existing Snowy Range Road
There still are a few grade level crossings in Albany County. One at the Hermosa Crossing, east of Tie Siding, requires motorists to cross four tracks. Considering that there are about 60 high-speed trains per day through the Laramie Basin, drivers need to heed the signals and look both ways when venturing across. Even if an engineer sees a vehicle on the tracks, the momentum of a fast-moving engine causes the braking distance to be several miles
There’s no question that overpasses provide more safety for motorists and the railroad, but they come with a high price tag. The project is scheduled for a 2016 start date with an estimated cost of approximately 17 million dollars. This includes the new roadway to tie into the new bridge.
Caption: Laramie pedestrian footbridge, AHC Svenson Collection, or a new photo of the construction work currently underway on repairing the Clark Street Viaduct, with a caption that suggests its repairs are necessary since it will have about 5 more years of service before the new viaduct at Harney is built.