CHICAGO (CBS) — A troubling number of Metra bridges are in need of serious repair. 61 bridges that carry commuter trains every day have received a poor rating and are in need of repairs.
A wing wall collapsed after heavy rains last week. The wall, adjacent to a Metra bridge near Libertyville, received a poor rating on its last inspection 11 months ago.
“Those poor ratings don’t mean they are structurally unsound or unsafe,” stated Bruce Marcheschi, Metra’s Executive Director of Operations. He helps decide which projects get attention and when.
Of the 375 Metra-maintained bridges inspected last year, 61 had a poor rating in at least one review category and 16 were rated poor, overall.
When asked if a poor bridge could give way, Marchschi replied, “No, I don’t think [so.]”
“When they rate it ‘poor,’ it hasn’t gotten to the point where it has to be taken out of service,” Marcheschi said.
Poor ratings can reflect anything from chipping concrete to peeling paint. Metra will slow down train speeds to keep bridges from deteriorating, which is happening in Libertyville following the collapse.
Metra’s bridge at Damen and Kinzie is currently in use, but received a poor rating.
Metra’s portion of the 35th Street Bridge beside Guaranteed Rate Field also received a poor rating, but is slated for immediate repairs this week.
“It’s a juggling act, almost like juggling chainsaws while ice-skating,” said Marcheschi.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole asked if Metra has enough money to make the system work. Marcheschi replied, “No,” claiming money is Metra’s biggest challenge.
Metra will receive $2.3 billion from the federal government by 20205, but needs another $9.7 billion to keep the system in good repair. It admittedly has Metra scrambling to prioritize projects and maintain safety.
Vince Gerasole: “Are finances jeopardizing the integrity of the system?”
Bruce Marcheschi: “No.”
Vince Gerasole: “You can say that uncategorically?”
Bruce Marcheschi: “Yes. We will find a way to make sure we meet every effort to keep the system running safely.”
Complicating the mix, the state of Illinois has not put together another capital plan since 2009, which affects Metra’s funding. Washington D.C. is also cutting back on funding for transportation systems all over the country, leaving Metra in a position where it has to prioritize repairs for an aging system.