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Freight train derails and bridge collapses in northern suburbs

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Updated: August 6, 2012 12:11PM

A freight train derailed and its crossing bridge collapsed Wednesday near the Glenview and Northbrook border, officials said.

The accident happened at 1:45 p.m. on the bridge along the Union Pacific tracks, causing authorities to shut down Shermer Road south of Willow as emergency crews rushed to the scene.

No vehicles or people appeared to be under the bridge when it collapsed, authorities said, and no injuries have been reported.

Railroad officials said the train derailed before the viaduct collapsed.

“The engineers and car crew said the bridge was intact when the train went over. It all seemed fine to them,” Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said Wednesday evening near the intersection of Shermer and Willow roads.

The freight train of three locomotives and 138 cars, all loaded with coal, was on its way from Wyoming to a utility in Wisconsin when four cars derailed, Davis said. The exact cause of the derailment was not immediately known. Additionally, “some dry vegetation” near the scene of the derailment reportedly caught fire, Davis said.

By 5 p.m., the roadway was filled with massive crane trucks and backhoes pulling the wreckage apart and scooping coal. Davis said the clean-up work would be completed in 24 hours, but did not know when Shermer Road would reopen.

Earlier in the day, Glenview Deputy Police Chief Phil Perlini said it could take months to clean up and repair the damage done during the accident.

Union Pacific officials will conduct the investigation into the accident, Perlini said.

Davis said the bridge is inspected twice annually, and said the bridge’s concrete abutments and rail ties were repaired last year. He described the situation as “fluid,”

“We’ll look at all the factors, including the heat’s impact on the bridge’s structure,” he said. Wednesday’s high temperature was 102 degrees.

“We do not know why it has collapsed,” said Bob Brogan, deputy chief of operations for Northbrook Fire Department.

Brogan said there were two people on the train at the time of the accident and neither was injured. Metra trains do not run on these tracks.

Jashwant Patel, who owns a Subway in Wil-Sher Shopping Center on Shermer Road near the accident, said the road was closed for months last year as the bridge was repaired.

“This bridge was closed for three months last year while it was fixed and they said it would last 100 years,” he said. “It’s the Fourth of July and it hasn’t even lasted a year.”

Repairs on the railroad overpass starting June 27, 2011, and initially expected to be closed for 60 days.

At that time, Jerry Burke, the director of Glenview Public Works Department, described the work as general maintenance. Crews were installing new braces and repainting the sides of the viaduct, he said in June 2011.

In September 2011, officials announced the project was taking longer than expected. The bridge structure required more extensive repairs than originally anticipated, Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Wes Lujan said in September. The roadway reopened the first week of October.

Staff Reporter Maureen O’Donnell and James Scalzitti contributed to this article.

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