Flood damaged Waterloo railroad bridge still in disrepair - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Flood damaged Waterloo railroad bridge still in disrepair

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By Bob Waters

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- It was one of THE images of the Floods of 2008.

The railroad bridge over the Cedar River in Waterloo washed away by flood waters into the river.

The mangled bridge continues to be out of service.

It remains where the flood waters deposited it five months ago.

That's caused big headaches for rail customers across eastern Iowa.

From grain to ethanol to John Deere tractors, shipments have been detoured for hundreds of miles.

Iowa Northern Railway hopes a repaired bridge allows them to get back on track soon.

As the november winds start to howl, the Waterloo railroad bridge sits quietly - nestled in the Cedar River - a victim of the June floods.

Before the flood, the Iowa Northern Railway carried daily shipments of John Deere tractors, grain, or ethanol south to Cedar Rapids.

Now, those shipments are being made with less frequency.

No bridge over the river to Cedar Rapids means all traffic goes north to Manly - then back south to Nevada - then east to Cedar Rapids.

A detour of around 300 miles for nearly 2/3 of the rail company's business.

"It's tremendously expensive," said Dan Sabin, Iowa Northern President.

Sabin can only watch and wait while his company and co-owner Union Pacific wait for the Corps of Engineers to sign off on the design phase.

"Bureaucracy is what it is. You'd like to do something day one. With flooding, we didn't have our offices in Cedar Rapids for 6 weeks so it was doubly frustrating in what we were going through," said Sabin.

Sabin says Waterloo's flood walls helped increase the force of the river during the flood which helped push the bridge over.

"We could have put cars on the bridge like other railroads did. Those cars would be down river now. It wasn't a risk worth taking," said Sabin.

While the bridge remains closed and the walls stay up, the train company had to do something creative to get the trains on the right lines. They come in from one line, back it in and then make a connection to go forward on another line so the trains can go north.

Bridge replacement is expected to cost about $5.6 million.

Who pays how much depends on the federal government.

Meantime, the removal process could start as soon as next month with construction over the winter.

The bridge could reopen by March.

Until then, the long detour remains in place.

Online Reporter:  Bob Waters

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