Falling Debris Plagues Motorists Railroad Says It'll Try to Keep Bridge Cleaner
McLaughlin, Amy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Amy McLaughlin Daily Herald Staff Writer
Officials with Union Pacific Railroad say they'll work harder to keep the area around the S-curve bridge over Northwest Highway in Des Plaines free of debris.
But, they say, that's about the best they can do to stem the complaints of falling metal objects that have been dogging drivers for years and picking up steam again recently.
"I'm at a loss. From an engineering standpoint, I don't know what to do," said Keith W. Eich, manager of bridge maintenance for Union Pacific.
Recent reports of debris striking cars traveling under the bridge has city and Union Pacific officials on edge. Des Plaines filed a petition with the Illinois Commerce Commission to try to force some action on the long-standing problem.
City officials have analyzed police reports from the last 2 1/2 years and found that people have reported falling objects 21 times.
In 10 of those cases, the "something" that fell actually struck a vehicle traveling under the 70-year-old wooden bridge - the only one in the country that supports two separate rail lines crossing each other's path.
But Eich said most of those objects, particularly the recent ones, likely are not from the bridge. Union Pacific recently installed fencing around the bridge to keep any loose objects from falling onto Northwest Highway.
Eich, who said the S-curve bridge is his "pet project," said the debris could be coming from train cars, and vandals might be throwing them from the bridge. Crews come out twice a week already, and he might increase that to three times a week.
"What do I do, build a sheet metal (fence) over the entire bridge? It's not feasible," Eich said.
"If somebody's got a reasonable suggestion, I will follow up on it."
Mayor Tony Arredia, who signed the complaint with the ICC, dismisses the notion that things are being thrown off the bridge and believes that the debris is being shaken loose from passing trains.
"We have to go to the next level now," Arredia told aldermen last week.
The city wants a hearing before the ICC, and hopes the ICC will require Union Pacific and Wisconsin Central, which also uses the bridge, and the Illinois Department of Transportation to find a solution to the problem.
Union Pacific owns the bridge and one of the rail lines crossing it; the other rail line is owned by Wisconsin Central.
City Attorney David Wiltse said he will use the newly compiled data to bolster the city's case before the Illinois Commerce Commission. …