Police, rail crews investigate reports of debris striking vehicles at Dixie Viaduct

Homewood and railroad officials took a look at the condition of the Dixie Highway viaduct last week after Homewood police received two reports of falling debris striking vehicles.

The Dixie Highway viaduct, almost 97 years old, is the site of heavy rail and road traffic. Two motorists reported their vehicles were struck by falling debris last week while driving through the viaduct. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
  The Dixie Highway viaduct,
  almost 97 years old, is the
  site of heavy rail and road
  traffic, and now falling debris.
 
 (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
 

Homewood police spokeswoman Denise McGrath said the department received both reports on Monday, April 8, and notified Metra and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

One motorist who filed a report, Jessica Rapp, said she was near the middle of the viaduct heading east when the windshield of her vehicle was struck by falling debris. 

Village Manager Jim Marino said responsibility for the structure is shared by Canadian National, which has the east half, and Metra, which has the west half.

Metra sent employees to assess the situation on two occasions this week in response to the report of falling debris, but they did not report finding any problems, according to Meg Thomas-Reile, Metra public relations manager. She said the employees checked the CN side of the structure, too. 

"The freeze-and-thaw cycle as well as spring rains can loosen up pieces of concrete," she said. "All of our bridges are inspected annually for structural integrity. If a bridge is experiencing significant deterioration we do schedule work, which can include wrapping the structure to prevent further deterioration and debris falling on the roadway below. We have not received any other reports about debris falling from this location and there is no work currently planned."

The nearly century-old viaduct is showing its age with crumbling concrete over the roadway. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
  The nearly century-old viaduct
  is showing its age with
  crumbling concrete over the
  roadway
. (Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)
 

Reile said the best procedure if something similar happens again is to report the incident to police.

"If anyone experiences a debris strike or observes something they believe to be hazardous such as hanging concrete or metal, they should contact their local police department to report it," she said. "The police will follow up with the owner of the bridge or any other structure as they did in this case."

CN has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Homewood Public Works Director John Schaefer said the village's role in cases like this is to work with the appropriate agencies to seek solutions to problems. 

Falling debris apparently wasn't the only hazard near the viaduct last week.

Another motorist reported that someone hiding in bushes near the viaduct threw a rock at his vehicle on Wednesday, April 10. 

Homewood police confirmed they were investigating reports of thrown rocks or debris. Incidents were not limited to the viaduct area.

McGrath said police received a report of a window broken in the 1900 block of Hickory Road and another in the 1300 block of Olive Road.  

"At this time it is undetermined what was used to break the windows," she said.

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