Durbin Announces $49.4 Million in Recovery Act Funding for EJ&E Bridge

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded $49.4 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern (EJ&E) Bridge on the Illinois River near Morris, Illinois. On March 12, 2009, Durbin sent a letter to the Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard requesting that the EJ&E Bridge reconstruction project be considered for Recovery Act funding.


“The EJ&E Bridge is currently the biggest safety concern for ship traffic on the nearly 300 mile long Illinois River,” Durbin said. “Ensuring the safe transit of goods up and down this critical national waterway is vital to the economy of Illinois, the Midwest and beyond. This important bridge project will quickly put people to work, enhance navigation and improve safety along our nation's waterways.”


The EJ&E Bridge is by far among the most serious obstructions to our inland river navigation system. Built in 1895, the bridge's lift span allows only 120 feet of clearance for barge traffic. A tow that is three barges wide will barely fit through the bridge, requiring careful approaches by barge operators that significantly slow traffic and impede commercial activity. Consequently, it is considered “the most hit bridge in America” since no other bridge is hit as often and with such predictability by water borne traffic.


Improving the railroad bridge has been identified as a national intermodal priority. The Coast Guard to declared the bridge unreasonably obstructive and issued an Order to Alter in 1995. Since then, engineering and design has been completed on the bridge, clearing the way for construction to begin. Congress has appropriated over $16 million for reconstruction of the bridge.


Senator Durbin has worked to secure funding for this important project through the Senate appropriations process. To date, $16 million has been appropriated for the reconstruction of the EJ&E Bridge.