October 03, 2019

Duckworth, other officials celebrate first-phase completion of Fox River rail bridge project in Elgin

Source: The Courier-News


The $34 million project to replace the Fox River rail bridge just south of Elgin’s National Street Metra station and build a second rail bridge alongside it could be completed as soon as next fall, officials said.

A ceremony to celebrate the first phase of work being finished on the Metra Z100 Fox River Bridge was held Thursday and attended by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Reps, Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg, and Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, who represent the Elgin area, and Metra representatives.

When completed, the new bridge is expected to bring much-needed relief to the area’s congested freight and commuter rail system.

“It’s so rare in our line of work these days to see something come all the way to fruition,” said Duckworth, who arrived at the National Street station event via Metra train.

“To have been able to work on this from when it was just a dream, from when it was a grant application, to being here when the groundbreaking happened (in 2017) and now to ride across that (new) bridge and see the old railroad coming down and see the new steel going in has been quite a privilege,” she said.

Duckworth, a U.S. representative for the Elgin area before being elected to the Senate in 2016, worked with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to secure $14 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funding for the bridge replacement. Metra committed another $14 million and Canadian Pacific Railway contributed $6 million.

Chris Krakar, Metra’s chief engineering officer, said the project would not be possible without the federal assistance.

“As you can imagine, it’s kind of hard to find $14 million sitting around somewhere,” he said.

Construction on the second phase involves tearing down of the 138-year-old bridge and replacing it with a second bridge, Krakar said. If all goes according to plan, it should be finished by October 2020.

The one-track Fox River Bridge was built in 1881 and some of its components date back to the 1950s, officials said.

The bottleneck occurs because it’s used for both commercial and commuter trains. Speed reductions are needed when crossing the bridge and schedules must be coordinated so two trains are not trying to use it simultaneously.

“What (a second track and bridge) will do is give us options," Metra Chief Operating Officer Bruce Marcheschi said. "If we have a service disruption, now instead of one train going across, we can now have two. We can adjust train traffic patterns to accommodate whatever time we have to make up because of the disruption.”

The completed project will save Metra riders about 1.2 million hours over its 30- to 40-year lifespan, Metra officials said.

“There are 60 trains to go back and forth over this train every day,” said Krishnamoorthi, thanking Duckworth’s “persistence” in pursuing federal assistance on the project. “That shows that this new bridge is going to be used quite a bit by the people of Elgin as they commute to the city and to other places in the Chicagoland area.”

By:  Rafael Guerrero