Local

After Fatal Train Wreck, Durbin Calls For More Federal Oversight Of Bridge Inspections

A Union Pacific freight train hauling coal from Wyoming to Wisconsin derailed near the border between north suburban Glenview and Northbrook on July 4, 2012. A railroad bridge also collapsed in the wreck. (Credit: CBS)

A Union Pacific freight train hauling coal from Wyoming to Wisconsin derailed near the border between north suburban Glenview and Northbrook on July 4, 2012. A railroad bridge also collapsed in the wreck. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 07/10/12 9:05 a.m.

GLENVIEW, Ill. (CBS) – As crews continued cleanup of the train derailment and bridge collapse that killed a Glenview couple, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was calling for increased federal oversight of railroad bridge inspections.

Durbin said railroads are tasked with inspecting their own bridges, but the wreck that killed Burton and Zorine Lindner last week when a railroad bridge crushed their car near the Glenview-Northbrook border, shows there needs to be more federal oversight of bridge inspections.

“With the extraordinary hot days that we’re experiencing, and with problems of failure looming, we need to make sure that all of the railroads serving our area have done the necessary inspections of their own systems,” Durbin said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

The senator stopped short of calling for shifting the responsibility of inspecting rail bridges from the railroads to the federal government, but did say the Federal Railroad Administration should make sure the railroads are doing the jobs themselves.

“What we’re asking the FRA to do is to spot check other structures that may be vulnerable to changes, because of heat or traffic,” Durbin said, acknowledging even that would be a large undertaking for the FRA. “It will require more federal inspectors, more people on the job than we currently have the capacity. Keep in mind how many infrastructures we’re talking about nationwide; hundreds of thousands,” he said.

Meantime, Union Pacific crews were back at work on Monday, cleaning up the wreckage of the train derailment and bridge collapse near Willow and Shermer roads.

Crews have been working around the clock since a stop-work order expired Saturday, according to Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis. A judge had halted cleanup work for 36 hours after the Lindners’ family sued Union Pacific and sought to gather evidence from the wreck site.

Davis said after attorneys for the Lindners inspected the site, crews removed the coal that had been spilled, and will now begin taking 28 derailed train cars from the area by truck. That is likely to take up 10 days, Davis said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

On July 4, a Union Pacific freight train hauling coal from Wyoming to Wisconsin derailed as it was passing over a railroad bridge near Shermer and Willow Roads, along the border between Glenview and Northbrook.

The bridge collapsed in the wreck, crushing the Lindners’ car underneath. Initially, authorities thought no one was hurt in the accident, but the bumper to the Lindners’ car was found the day after the wreck, and crews dug out the vehicle, finding their bodies inside.

Trains have been going over a set of temporary tracks since the day after the wreck. Davis said it might be two months before the collapsed railroad bridge is fixed and Shermer Road reopens to traffic.

Union Pacific has said preliminary findings indicated the heat on Wednesday – when temperatures reached 102 degrees – likely caused the tracks to warp, leading to the derailment.

The Lindners’ attorneys have criticized that finding, however, claiming in a wrongful death lawsuit that Union Pacific failed to properly repair or maintain the track and bridge.

Attorney Michael LaMonica said they brought experts to the site on Saturday to take pictures and to preserve and document evidence.

Meanwhile, at the request of Glenview and Northbrook officials, Union Pacific Railroad managers have agreed to appear at a community meeting to explain the circumstances of the derailment. Officials will also talk about safety at the site, since there have been two previous derailments.

The meeting is set for next Monday at 7 p.m.