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Skanska to replace 90-year-old bridge in Barstow, CA as city braces for population surge

The old, steel-and-timber bridge has to go as Barstow prepares for a $1.5bn rail freight hub that could double its population (Courtesy of The Ferraro Group/City of Barstow)
Skanska has won a $30m contract to replace a near-century-old, steel-and-timber bridge over a big rail yard in Barstow, California as the Mojave Desert city braces for a doubling of its population sparked by a rail-infrastructure building boom.

Commissioned by the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, Skanska will replace the existing, two-lane North 1st Avenue Bridge, built around 1930, with a higher and wider one that has standard eight-foot shoulders and an eight-foot sidewalk.

City officials called the replacement the first step in a wave of infrastructure improvements needed to prepare for a $1.5bn rail freight hub planned there by railway company BNSF.

Its “Barstow International Gateway”, unveiled in October 2022, will be a 4,500-acre complex on Barstow’s west side consisting of a rail yard, warehouses, and an intermodal cargo-handling facility to speed up the flow of containers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach across the US by rail.

Infrastructure boom

The city plans two more bridge projects, plus housing and water infrastructure improvements in anticipation of a doubling of Barstow’s current population of around 25,000 people. BNSF said its new rail hub would create 20,000 new jobs.

The new bridge will accommodate all legal truck and permitted vehicles on this main thoroughfare connecting northern neighbourhoods to downtown.

Skanska will first demolish the old bridge, a 29-span steel truss and steel-and-timber girder bridge deemed structurally deficient and not high enough to accommodate rail traffic underneath.

Then it will build a seven-span, post-tensioned concrete box girder bridge over the 17 tracks in BNSF’s existing rail yard.

The job includes realigning North 1st Avenue, relocating utilities, and improving drainage and lighting.

Work starts this month, with completion anticipated in 2024, which is when the city hopes BNSF will start building its new hub.

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