Despite reports of more debris, railroad says Touhy bridge still OK

Union Pacific Railroad inspectors have found Park Ridge’s Touhy Avenue overpass to be “structurally sound” after a motorist reported that pieces of falling concrete from the bridge shattered her windshield.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said crews inspected the bridge just west of Busse Highway on Feb. 25, the day after a Park Ridge woman filed a report with police.

“They found that the bridge is structurally sound [and] very little concrete was found at the street level,” Davis said. “They did find some loose concrete that was removed over the sidewalk.”

According to police, the woman said she was driving east on Touhy around 5:50 p.m., Feb. 24 when “several pieces of concrete” fell from the overpass above as a train passed through. The woman’s windshield was cracked on the passenger side, police said.

Other reports of debris falling from the bridge have made to police over recent years, including one in August 2013 when a police detective reported that a rock fell on a police car. The bridge was inspected and Union Pacific personnel “found nothing wrong with the bridge,” Davis said at the time.

The last time the Touhy overpass was inspected was in November, Davis told the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate. Another routine inspection occurred in May.

“UP bridge inspectors are trained to inspect all of the bridge components and determine what, if any, issues are present and need to be addressed,” he said. “In addition to the two standard inspections, cursory inspections of our bridges are completed throughout the year.”

There are no plans to replace the bridge, Davis said.

In 2009, wooden planks were installed just under the railroad tracks to catch falling debris after concrete tumbled onto cars. In 2012, after a collapsed railroad bridge killed two people in Glenview, 1st Ward Ald. Joseph Sweeney asked the city to conduct its own assessment of the bridge, which he described as “looking pretty poor.”

Union Pacific has authority over inspections and repairs to the bridge.

“We have been all along been asking for repairs and for them to actually go out and look [at it],” Zingsheim said Feb. 27. “When they came out and put those wooden planks up there, it was because we asked them. There was falling debris and we needed something done.”

Zingsheim speculated that the freeze-thaw cycle experienced recently may have caused some of the concrete to crumble.

Davis said safety is the focal point when inspectors take a look at railroad bridges, not their appearance.

“Our bridge inspectors focus on the soundness of the bridge structure as opposed to the aesthetic presentation,” he said.

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