Railroad considers bridge designs

Mindy Carls

Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials are reviewing two designs for a bridge on 13th Avenue, Village President Jim Cooper told Orion trustees on Monday, July 20.

Cooper finally got to speak to Byron Burns, the railroad’s director of bridge engineering in Kansas City.

Burns told him the engineering report is done, and a cost study is done.

Cooper said Burns listed two options, rebuilding the bridge as is and replacing it with a new bridge.

The village may have to issue waivers about approaches to the bridge, because the streets are so steep there, Cooper said.

Burns told the village president he could not share cost estimates yet.

The railroad official expects to be in Orion later this year, according to Cooper.

“I’m encouraged by what he told me,” the village president said.

Trustee Mel Drucker thanked Cooper for pushing Burlington Northern Santa Fe into replacing the crossings on 10th, 11th and 12th avenues.

“In the 36 years I’ve been in Orion, these are the nicest we’ve ever had,” Drucker said. “I commend you for persevering.”

Cooper said people have been stopping him at the post office to say they like the new crossings.

Duane Schoon­over, the railroad’s roadmaster in Galesburg, dropped in at village hall to see how people were reacting to the work his crews did, the village president said.

The original plan was to use concrete on the 11th and 12th avenue crossings, but the crews used it for the 10th Avenue crossing, too, Cooper said.

Show the money

After delivering good news about the railroad bridge and crossings, the village president had what he called “not so good news” about state funding.

Earlier this year, Cooper and Drucker traveled to Springfield to meet present Orion’s wish list to state officials.

“We want the people of Orion to know we were aggressively trying to get this money,” the village president said.

Cooper and Drucker presented detailed proposals, and they were shocked to learn Orion would not receive any funds from the $31 million capital bill the legislature recently passed.

State Rep. Mike Boland (D-East Moline) told Cooper he made a lot of requests on Orion’s behalf, but “the powers that be” chose other projects.

Cooper told him, “You are the ‘powers that be.”

Boland said millions of dollars have been kept back for distribution later, and he told the village president he would try to get some of it for Orion.

When Boland was involved in a tight race for his seat a few years ago, he announced two $50,000 grants for Orion projects.

The village received only $12,500 of each grant, and used $75,000 in general funds to complete the projects, Cooper said.  

“We’re out $75,000,” the village president told Boland. “You owe us that money.”

The legislator asked Cooper for a letter he could present to state officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn.

Next time Boland and State Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) are in town, Cooper and Drucker plan to visit them.