U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth got a rare, up-close view of a 133-year-old Metra bridge in Elgin Thursday while exhorting U.S. Congress to allocate federal funds to replace it.
The 500-foot bridge -- the only single-track section between Chicago and Elgin -- carries Metra's Milwaukee West Line over the Fox River.
It's located south of the intersection of Raymond Street and Route 20. Half of its spans were replaced in 1905 and the rest in 1926.
Congress should approve Metra's $17 million grant request from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program, Duckworth said.
Metra wants to build a new bridge with two tracks and a modern signal system compliant with required standards.
Replacing the bridge would cost $34 million; Metra would contribute $11 million, while Canadian Pacific Railroad would contribute $6 million, Metra officials said.
"It's critical to invest in infrastructure projects," Duckworth said, adding the project would also add jobs to the local economy.
The bridge is used by 49 Metra trains and up to eight Canadian Pacific trains daily. Also, it will be used by Amtrak trains between Rockford and Chicago starting next year.
"Traffic is only going to increase in the future. We can't afford to not fix these bridges," Duckworth said.
Having a single track means trains' schedules need to be coordinated. Also, trains must slow down over the old bridge.
All that results in an added 36,000 hours of travel for riders, Metra officials said.
Metra and freight train traffic would not be interrupted during the construction of the new bridge, which would have a life span of about 50 years, Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said.
"We're really hoping this comes to fruition," he said.
Also present Thursday were Metra board member Manny Barbosa, of Elgin, and Bill Dorris, board chairman for the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association.