Major railroad artery close to flowing again - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Major railroad artery close to flowing again

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by Bryan Goettel

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - A lifeline through Eastern Iowa is close to finally reopening after last year's floods.

The Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway Company, or "CRANDIC" completed construction of the new Cedar River Bridge.

The railroad suffered $11 million in damages due to the flood.  Nearly $7 million of the bridge repair has been covered by a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.

After standing for more than a hundred years, in an instant, the bridge was gone.

But now a new bridge is in its place, complete with many improvements to help prevent history from repeating itself.

Jeff Woods remembers it down to the minute.

"It took a lot of breath out of you," CRANDIC marketing manager Jeff Woods said. "To think that an 803 foot structure can just be wiped out that quickly."

At 9:43 A.M. on Thursday, June 12th, 2008, the Cedar River Railroad Bridge succumbed to the flood waters.

"In the interim we had to route the 20,000 cars a year that came over this bridge a lot of different directions," Woods said.

It's part of what the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railroad Company calls the Amana line. It's a critical link for corn coming to be processed from elevators in Northern Iowa. For more than a year, cars had to be re-routed almost 300 miles.

"A lot of the rates we had to put in place to cover those shipments went up so it's hurt," Woods said. "And getting it back's gonna fix that."

A trip that was taking five or six days will soon be back to just a few hours. Crews are working on the finishing touches, making sure the approach is level with the new bridge.

"This bridge...the deck of it sits two feet higher at the bottom than the old one did," Woods said.

A sign reading "We're back" went up on the bridge Monday.  Woods expects the major artery to be flowing again before the week is out.

"It's great to get it back in service," Woods said.  "It's been a long year of a lot of work."

Woods says they had hoped to have the new bridge all finished by early June.

But high river levels late in the spring held up construction.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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