Janesville59°

Railroad bridge closed, high water could hinder repairs

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
March 21, 2009
— Union Pacific officials are concerned high water might have damaged a pier that holds up a railroad bridge in Janesville.

The bridge was closed Wednesday and will remain so for an undetermined time, said railroad spokesman Mark Davis.


The railroad bridge spans the Rock River just west of Center Avenue at the Monterey Bridge. A boat crew with sonar gear tried to examine the pier Friday.


No shipments are scheduled immediately on that line, but Union Pacific is working to get permission to use Wisconsin & Southern Railroad track so it can continue serving its customers, Davis said.


Union Pacificís track extends about 10 miles north of Janesville, Davis said.


City workers partially closed the floodgates near the pier to help the workers maneuver in the rushing water Friday, but that led to a new problem.


The floodgates are part of a system that creates a pond next to the river.


The pond rose when the gates were closed, and water flowed over a narrow strip of land that separates the pond from the river.


Water was flowing over the strip in two spots Friday. In one of the spots, the water had gouged a shallow channel. City workers were called in to sandbag those spots, said Tom Presny, city parks director.


The strip of land was a concern to state DNR officials during last summerís high water. They worried that the strip could give way, and the pond water would pour all at once into the river.


A railroad inspector noticed the bridge problem Wednesday afternoon, Davis said. Workers determined the rail dipped by about 12 inches near the pier and was about an inch out of alignment at the same spot, Davis said.


Officials suspected that the pier might be damaged or undermined below the water line, but the high, rushing water delayed the inspection, Davis said.


The turbulent water prevented the sonar crew from getting readings on Friday, and the forecast of high water means further sonar testing will be delayed for at least two weeks, Davis said.


In the meantime, the bridge will not be used.


The bridgeís 711-foot steel span is held up by stone piers. It was built in 1907, Davis said.


Itís too early to say how long the bridge will be out of service, but Davis said he felt confident that railroad workers or contractors accustomed to coming up with engineering fixes would be able to solve whatever the problem is.



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