Location

Billings, Montana

Client

City of Billings

Size

130 feet (length of bridge plus landings)

Completed

Est. 2013

Project Highlights

Reclaimed historic 1910 passanger car/foot bridge (rendering credit: Jim Collins)

Description

In 2010, High Plains Architects joined lead engineering firm Morisson Maerle to design a pedestrian bridge to cross over the railroad tracks in downtown Billings.  Ten years after High Plains led a study to determine the viability of repurposing a historic bridge into a pedestrian bridge over railroad tracks, the dream started to become a reality.

HISTORY

The historic Old Town Historic District, located along both sides of the BNSF railroad tracks, contains the original commercial heart of Billings and the largest collection of remaining historic buildings in the city.

In December 1997, the Downtown Billings Framework Plan was unanimously adopted by the Billings City Council and the Yellowstone County Commissioners. The plan was designed to be “an action plan for the future of downtown Billings” and to help guide decisions about its growth and development and ultimately help to enhance the historic districts. In 1999, the Urban Design Committee of the Downtown Billings Partnership undertook a project to develop urban design guidelines, resulting in a 120 page book titled “Urban Design Sketchbook,” for the various downtown districts identified in the Framework Plan. High Plains Architects was assigned to “Old Town,” the Montana/Minnesota Avenue historic area. The Old Town plan included streetscape improvements, a quiet zone, historic district designation, parking solutions, and bridges.

One of the most important recommendations in the sketchbook for the Old Town district was a pair of pedestrian bridges over the tracks, one to be located at 25th Street and one at the other end of the district at 30th Street. The two bridges together create a “pedestrian loop” through the historic heart of the Old Town district as well as providing significant additional linkages across the tracks. Because of the redevelopment success along Montana Avenue, specifically at the historic Depot, and factors that identify this location as comparatively easier to access, the bridge at 25th Street was designated as a top priority.

In 2000, High Plains Architects was selected to prepare a Master Plan for the 25th Street Pedestrian/Bike Bridge. Funded by the City/County Planning Department, the Master Plan includes project history and description, preliminary cost estimates, annual operating costs, letters of support, Montana Rail Link Lease and Easement Applications, Montana Rail Link Sample Lease and Easement, public meeting announcements and media coverage; and drawings.

FUTURE VISION

The 25th Pedestrian/Bike Bridge builds upon significant redevelopment that has occurred over the past decade and provides connections to many ongoing planning and redevelopment efforts underway, including trail connections and expansion, parking, oversize vehicle parking, Minnesota Avenue Streetscape Plan, and the Old Town Historic District. The 25th Street Bridge has the potential to become a key feature of downtown Billings. The greenway lends itself to the opportunity for artistic expression that would further attract interest to the area. The bridge and connecting greenway will serve as a visual and physical link between Montana and Minnesota Avenue.
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