WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Sen. Harkin Touts Partnership

Oct 19, 2012

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) says a public-private partnership is working well in southeast Iowa.

BNSF Railway’s original swing-span railroad bridge across the Mississippi River in Burlington was built in 1868.  It was transformed to a double-track structure in 1893.

The old bridge was replaced by a roughly 2,100’ structure that features a lift span.  The lift span allows a section of the bridge to be elevated to accommodate boats or barges.

BNSF Railway and the federal government split the cost of the roughly $150-million bridge.

Harkin says public-private partnerships like this are crucial.

“It creates new jobs and it creates more economic activity,” says Harkin.  “It makes us more competitive in global markets so it is a win/win for both the public and private sectors.”

BNSF Railway CEO Matt Rose says the idea of replacing the bridge dates back to 1991.  He says at that time, the U.S. Coast Guard deemed the structure to be a hazard to river traffic.

Rose says the new bridge will allow for cross-country transportation for decades to come.

“This bridge will handle about 40 trains/day along with 2 AMTRAK trains,” says Rose.  “Our expectation is that with the quality of construction, this bridge (should) be able to go for 150-200 years.”

Rose says the new lift span bridge will also open and close much more quickly, decreasing the wait time for train traffic.

More than 200 people turned out for Thursday’s dedication of BNSF Railway’s new railroad bridge in Burlington.

It took crews about four years to complete the project.