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Our View: Past time to repair Keslinger Road bridge

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

It was good to see author Dan McNichol highlighting the collapsed Keslinger Road bridge last week, although the aggravating story behind this gap in the local road network doesn’t fit neatly into the narrative of America’s crumbling infrastructure.

The companies whose actions officials say led to the collapse of the Keslinger Road bridge in 2008 have ducked responsibility for it for more than five years now, as negotiation has turned to litigation.

Officials from Welded Construction, a contractor working for Enbridge Energy on an oil pipeline project in 2008, have acknowledged the company’s trucks were carrying loads of as much as 155,000 pounds – more than 77 tons – across the bridge without permission. The legal load limit for the bridge was less than half that.

Investigations by the Illinois Center for Transportation and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office showed the bridge likely collapsed because trucks that weighed more than the legal limit crossed the structure.

DeKalb County officials have said it would cost $933,000 to replace the bridge, although that number might be higher today. In 2010, county officials said the two sides were in “very serious” discussions about a settlement. By 2011, they were “very close” either to a deal or a county lawsuit.

Unfortunately for those who live near the bridge, the end result was a lawsuit, which almost always means more waiting.

DeKalb County Board Chairman Jeffery Metzger now says that the two sides are very close to a settlement. Apparently, the sticking points have been who would pay what share of the damages the county is seeking to repair the bridge.

There are many examples of a lack of maintenance and care weakening our country’s infrastructure, from small bridges used primarily by farmers and rural residents, to the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 and injuring 145.

When big bridges collapse, they generally are fixed as soon as possible – the Minneapolis bridge was repaired in little more than a year. As the rural residents who have been driving their cars around the collapsed bridge for the past five years can tell you, less-traveled bridges often end up near the bottom of the priority list.

But it is past time that the Keslinger bridge was replaced. Residents have waited long enough.

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