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Bridging the gaps

Bridge projects underway in Bureau County

PRINCETON/WYANET — Two railroad bridges, each more than 100 years old, are in the process of getting replaced in Bureau County.

Crews are working on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad bridge located just east of Wyanet on 1525 East Street over West Bureau Creek. The other bridge is located about two miles west of Princeton off Backbone Road and visible to travelers on Interstate 80.

Both bridges were built in 1899 and have had long productive lives, according to BNSF spokesperson Andy Williams.

Crews are currently working to prepare the approaches to either side of the bridges. Crews are preparing the base to bring in drilling equipment to put in new pilings, which are concrete structures to hold the bridges themselves. Getting the pilings built will take the next few months, Williams said.

Once the piling is built, all the tracks and decking will be replaced, replacing the approaches to the center part of the bridge. The approaches to the bridges will be concrete, while the new center part of the bridge will be steel.

The actual bridge replacements, the center parts, won’t happen until November, Williams said. Once that time comes, crews will work around the clock for 36 hours to replace each bridge, with train traffic rerouted during that time, he said.

Also between now and November, crews at the Wyanet site will be erecting a brand new steel girder bridge, 120 feet in length for the center section. During a 36-hour time frame, crews will take the old center section out, bring in a crane, hook on to the new section and slide it into place. The same process will take place for the Princeton bridge, which is 383 feet long, with a center span of 156 feet, the BNSF spokesperson said.

The Bureau County bridge projects are part of a $150 million capital projects program planned by BNSF for Illinois during 2014, according to the BNSF website. The projects will expand rail capacity, replace and maintain the network infrastructure, and continue the implementation of new technology. The BNSF Railway operates on 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces.

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