La Crosse, Wisconsin, Double-Track Project Permitting

Project Summary

BNSF retained Hanson to manage the environmental permitting process for the construction of the La Crosse (Wisconsin) double-track project. This critical project, which provides the final link in the double-tracking of the mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities, received intense and adversarial public scrutiny that resulted in caution on the part of regulatory agencies.

Hanson’s scope focused on the regulatory process, working with the design firm and BNSF government affairs and engineering personnel to resolve a number of regulatory issues. These included high-quality emergent wetlands along nearly 2 miles of the project, Mississippi River floodplains, narrow right of way, a bald eagle nest, Wisconsin threatened species black terns’ nesting habitat, extensive areas of unsuitable soil, a stream crossing and three other flood equalization crossings and Wisconsin’s strict stormwater management requirements.

Hanson’s experience with complex agency coordination, combined with a comprehensive understanding of the railroad industry, environmental coordination and stormwater management practices, enabled the team to achieve the objective and obtain the necessary permits, allowing for project completion within the desired time frame.

Permitting strategies included careful project phasing to allow an early start on the less-contested portion, a preapplication meeting, regular communication with the agencies throughout the project and prompt responses to issues as they were raised by special-interest groups.

Hanson provided on-site environmental compliance monitoring during construction as a supplement to the standard construction management services provided by the design engineering firm. This multifaceted approach allowed us to anticipate potential issues and promptly address them during the agency review process and throughout construction.