Settlement reached in Keslinger Road bridge lawsuit

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 3:28 p.m.CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 11:56 p.m.CDT
Caption
(Shaw Media File Photo)
A bridge on Keslinger Road west of South First Street in Afton Township collapsed on August 19, 2008 as seen here.

Planning is underway to replace the Keslinger Road bridge that collapsed in August 2008, thanks to a recent $900,000 settlement with Enbridge Energy.

The lawsuit filed in October 2011 was dismissed Thursday after DeKalb County and Afton Township officials reached an agreement that will allow crews to fix the bridge without any cost to local government, DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said in a news release.

"We wanted to get a bridge to the citizens of Afton Township as quickly as we could," said Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Klein, who has been working on the case for about a year. "We wanted to get one as quickly and at as little cost as possible to the citizens."

In the lawsuit, local officials claimed Welded Construction trucks carrying more than the legal weight limit of about 36 1/2 tons damaged the bridge on their way to an oil pipeline construction project for Enbridge Energy.

The bridge, which crossed the Kishwaukee River between First Street and Anderland Road south of DeKalb, saw about 100 vehicles per day before construction traffic increased in June 2008. On Aug. 19, 2008, the bridge’s eight timber piles buckled, and the concrete deck split in two and plunged into the Kishwaukee River.

Litigation was complicated because Enbridge Electric and Welded Construction representatives argued they should be responsible for the depreciated value of the bridge built in 1975, not the replacement cost, according to Schmack's news release.

It also was complicated by the relationship between the two defendants: Enbridge Energy had contracted with Welded Construction to build the oil pipeline, but local officials alleged it was Welded Construction's trucks that caused the damage, the news release states.

Local officials complimented State Representative Bob Pritchard for encouraging both sides to consider what was best for the public, and former Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Hickey, who compiled a report on what caused the bridge to collapse.

"He was the go-between," County Board Chairman Jeff Metzger said of Pritchard. "He really represented us the way we would hope a state representative would be there for us."

Meanwhile, engineering work needed to repair or completely replace the bridge started about a month ago, County Engineer Nathan Schwartz said. He hopes to let bids in June and have construction start in the fall.

Officials want to replace the bridge, rather than repairing the remaining pieces, but they'll have to evaluate the finances after more engineering work is finished, Schwartz said. They might be able to use federal funds for the bridge project as well.

County officials previously estimated the cost to replace the bridge at $933,000.

"We're a long ways from knowing those exact numbers," Schwartz said, "because we just started the design of it."

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