Work At Starkweather Creek

By Mike Larson, Editor | September 28, 2010

Starkweather Creek meanders under Madison's busy East Washington Ave., a six-lane racing river of commuters flowing into and out of the state's capital every day.

Most of the drivers who travel this busy thoroughfare are probably too busy watching traffic to notice the creek as they zip over it on their daily drives to and from work.

But replacing the bridge and culvert for Starkweather creek is part of the major reconstruction project that is remaking 4.5 miles of East Washington Ave.

The overall East Washington Ave. project, a joint venture between the city of Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), has already been in process for about two years and will take until 2009 to complete.

It involves removing the street's pavement; replacing the water mains, storm sewers, and sanitary sewers; running new electrical lines for street lights,traffic signals, electronic message boards, and traffic cameras; and putting in new curb, gutter and pavement.

It also includes reshaping some intersections to make them safer, adding some landscaping, rebuilding some bridges and overpasses, and replacing some other culverts and bridges, like the one at Starkweather Creek, which runs along side Darbo Drive just north of the major intersection at East Washington Ave. and East Johnson Street.

Even though the creek is relatively small, lots of work goes into building the structures related to it. Along its sides are hundreds of interlocking sheet piles driven into the creek bed.

Hydraulic excavators with breakers and backhoe buckets have to knock out and dig up the concrete footings and walls of previous overpasses, bridges and culverts that need to be removed and replaced.

And craftsmen need to construct forms for pouring the new concrete walls that will support new bridges and pedestrian walkways. The workmen even carefully place, level and secure templates on the forms so the poured concrete will take on the appearance of interlocking stones.

As I watch the amount of work required on this one small part of the project, I think about all the other work that is going on at other parts. The thing that amazes me is not that the project will take years to complete, but that the crews can get it all done that quickly.