Durbin wants feds to check for vulnerable bridges

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is requesting the Federal Railroad Administration conduct spot-checks of railway bridges in the region after a train derailment caused one structure to collapse Wednesday, killing a Glenview husband and wife.

“What we’re asking the FRA to do is spot-check other structures that may be vulnerable to changes because of heat or traffic,” Durbin said Monday. “This tragic accident is a reminder of the vulnerability we have when infrastructure fails.”

Excessive heat caused the rails on the Union Pacific line to expand, leading to the derailment on the bridge over Shermer Road in Glenview Wednesday afternoon, a preliminary investigation indicates. Twenty-eight freight cars piled up on the bridge, which gave way, crushing the car Burton Linder, 69, and his wife, Zorine, 70, were traveling in.

Railroads are responsible for maintaining and conducting inspections of the bridges they own, Durbin said.

He added, “it’s important we step up and give notice to all railroads across the system with the extraordinarily hot days we’re experiencing and with problems and failure looming — we need to make sure all railroads serving our area have done the necessary inspections of their own systems, so we can do our best to avoid this kind of tragedy.”

The government has limited responsibility but “what I’m hoping to do is to get the FRA in the Chicagoland area to work with the railroads and find out if they’re doing timely inspections and responding to any notices of problems,” Durbin said.

The Springfield Democrat made his remarks at a news conference regarding the recently approved two-year federal transportation funding bill.

It will funnel $4.1 billion toward state roads and $1.5 billion for transit.

The Illinois Department of Transportation will seek bids on 60 new projects in August as a result, Secretary Ann Schneider said. She cited lane additions on Mannheim Road from Higgins to Irving Park roads in Chicago and on Route 59 between Ferry Road and Aurora Avenue in Naperville.

The federal funding will allow Metra to continue rebuilding bridges on its UP North line and rehab aging locomotives, agency CEO Alex Clifford said. Pace plans to revamp bus garages, add paratransit vehicles and convert some buses to use compressed natural gas, agency Chairman Richard Kwasneski said.

A community meeting on the derailment will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Glenbrook North High School, 2300 Shermer Road, Northbrook. Representatives from UP will attend.

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  Union Pacific workers clean up train debris Monday from the bridge collapse at Shermer and Willow roads in Glenview. Joel Bissell/
  Union Pacific workers clean up train debris Monday from the bridge collapse at Shermer and Willow roads in Glenview. Joel Bissell/
  Union Pacific crews work to clean up the wreckage of the July 4 derailment and bridge collapse Friday in Glenview. Eric Peterson/
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