Des Plaines wants railroad bridge inspections

Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said Tuesday he wants an immediate inspection of all railroad tracks on bridges that cross over roads in the village, including an S-curve railroad trestle over Northwest Highway.

The decision was made in response to this months's railroad bridge collapse in Glenview that killed two people, and which was likely caused by the heat.

That bridge and the one Moylan first asked for an inspection of — which crosses Northwest Highway about a mile west of Graceland Avenue — are maintained by the Union Pacific Railroad.

The Northwest Highway bridge, over which both freight and passenger trains travel, is also utilized and co-owned by the Canadian National Railroad.

“We're concerned for the safety of our residents,” Moylan said. “We want to make sure we've expressed in the strongest way that we want to get inspectors out there.”

Moylan said he requested the city's public works and engineering department call for an inspection of the Northwest Highway bridge on Monday morning and expanded the request to all bridges on Tuesday.

According to Jon Duddles, assistant director of public works and engineering, there are three other locations in the city where trains cross over a street, including over Higgins Road, east of Mannheim Road; over Golf Road, about a quarter mile east of River Road; and again over Golf Road, near Wolf Road.

Duddles said Union Pacific inspects the railroad bridges in Des Plaines twice a year. All four were inspected in April and were scheduled to be inspected again in the fall, but Moylan wants it done sooner.

“The most important thing is that we have an inspection now,” Moylan said, explaining that he wants to be “proactive” on the issue. If heat can cause derailments, he said, waiting until fall for an inspection will do no good.

Moylan said the Northwest Highway bridge is of particular concern to him because of its age, previous problems there and the large amount of traffic that passes under it each day. The bridge dates back to 1930, and falling debris has been an issue in the past.

Results from the April inspections could not be released by Des Plaines and were not immediately available from Union Pacific.

The city cannot go on the railroad property to perform an inspection on its own without approval from Union Pacific. Village officials did not have an estimated date for when inspections may occur.

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