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>Railroads aim to replace or revamp aging bridges

Railroads aim to replace or revamp aging bridges

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Union Pacific Railroad is anticipating operational efficiency gains from a major bridge replacement project, as well. The Class I plans to replace a 103-year-old, 890-foot-long structure spanning the Mississippi River on the Overland Route in Clinton, Iowa. The double-track, steel through-truss swing span bridge is a major choke point on the route, which accommodates up to 65 freight trains daily and is used to haul about 140 million gross-tons of cargo annually, UP officials said in an email.

During a 24-hour period, the swing span might be open a cumulative total of five hours to accommodate barge traffic during the peak river shipping season; barge traffic has priority over rail traffic.

This swing span bridge is obsolete, with a horizontal bridge opening of only 177 feet — well short of the 300-foot minimum now required by the U.S. Coast Guard, UP officials said. In addition, the bridge has been struck by river barges and watercraft more than 100 times in the past 15 years, they said.

To alleviate problems associated with the antiquated structure, the Class I proposes to build a new clear span bridge, which would “greatly increase river traffic safety and eliminate a railroad bottleneck,” UP officials said. Project details still are being finalized and a construction schedule has not been determined.

Because the bridge’s design calls for a clear span, longer approaches will need to be employed to gain the necessary elevation over the river, UP officials said. The new bridge, along with other nearby projects — including a new crew change facility — will bring the total investment in the area to about $400 million, they estimate.

A short line already is investing capital in a bridge project, to the tune of $500,000. New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp. (NYSW) crews are beginning to upgrade a bridge near Ridgewood and Midland Park, N.J., that retains a 25 mph speed restriction.

The project is an example of an alternative method to bridge replacement or rehabilitation, according to NYSW officials.

The 83.5-foot-long, double-track, through-plate girder bridge was built on two abutments in 1913 and carried tracks over a long-abandoned trolley line right of way.

Instead of building a new bridge, crews will employ an earthen fill and drainage pipe method. To complete the project, 225 linear feet of ballast and track will be installed on top of the fill, which will be graded to the same level as the tops of the old abutments. As of press time, work was slated to begin late last month or in October.

Bridge maintenance no longer will be required and the railroad will register locomotive fuel savings because the speed restriction will be eliminated, according to NYSW officials.–28321

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