New Rail Road Bridge At Stoddard Nears Completion … But A Lot of Work Remains Before BNSF Has A Modern, Safe System

The new BNSF bridge near Stoddard, Wisconsin nears completion. Photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2015.
By Mark L. Taylor
The Daily Call (4/5/15)

The replacement BNSF railroad bridge just south of the Village of Stoddard is nearing completion. The new structure replaces the cracked, deteriorating, patch-worked hulk that — given all the BNSF Bakken crude oil bomb trains heading down the banks of the Mississippi River every day — presented a clear community danger.

The old bridge had been crumbling for decades. There literally were calcium stalactites hanging from the rotted belly of the bridge.  For over a year several spans rested on timber cribbing and in places the concrete rot was so bad rebar hung in the air like telephone lines.

The above photo of the new bridge was taken Saturday from Hwy. 35. Photos of the old bridge are below. While it is great BNSF has a dandy new bridge at Stoddard the old photos are included because there are numerous BNSF rail bridges up and down the Mississippi in as bad or worse shape. Many of us in southwest Wisconsin live within the blast range or downwind of these hidden weapons of corporate mass destruction.

Only God and BNSF multi-gazillionaire owner Warren Buffett knows how many BNSF bridges across the nation need replacement. And my guess is Buffet’s not telling God a damn thing … might nick the stock price.

Let’ hope BNSF ramps up their sense of corporate responsibility and gets all the unsafe bridges replaced, ASAP, before tragedy strikes!


Here’s what the old Stoddard bridge looked like up close. Notice the timber cribbing holding the mess in place and the “smiley face” the inspection crews spray painted to mark one of the dangerous spans. They used such symbols in several spots. I guess that is what passes for BNSF corporate humor. I don’t know, maybe you needed to be there to get it. Yuck, yuck…


Here’s what the underbelly of the old Stoddard bridge looked like. Exposed rusting rebar and massive fissures. A similar scene could be found parallel several yards away . This damage did not happen overnight. Most likely it rotted out over decades, yet every year this bridge passed BNSF safety inspections. Similar concrete and rebar rot can be found on other BNSF bridges along the Mississippi.


Here’s what was keeping several spans of the old Stoddard bridge supported for over a year. Contrary to proper installation of timber cribbing, this mess of shrinking timbers had no cross bracing, despite being subject to seasonal flooding (notice the water stains on the timbers) and the vibration of numerous freight and heavy crude oil bomb trains every day.


This BNSF bridge is north of Stoddard, as you enter LaCrosse on Hwy. 35. In many spots the concrete here crumbles to the touch (don’t sneeze) and rusty, rotting rebar is the norm. Notice the twisted timbers on top. Oh, and guess what? This structural wonder is just across the road and southwest from a grade school. If a train goes off here the prevailing winds will carry the flaming toxic brew right into that school. BNSF … the good neighbor!


This BNSF wonder of structural decreptitude mishmash is south of Stoddard and bearing the weight of numerous rolling bomb trains day in and day out, month after month. As they like to say in the BNSF boardroom, “Profit before all else, now let us prey.”

(All Daily Call photos by Mark L. Taylor. Open source and free to use with link to )


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