Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Illinois county sues Enbridge, contractor for bridge collapse

SYCAMORE, Ill. – After 10 months of trying to reach a settlement with the companies accused of causing the collapse of Keslinger Bridge, DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell filed a lawsuit seeking compensation.

Campbell and Afton Township officials named Enbridge Energy and Welded Construction in a lawsuit seeking an excess of $150,000 for damage they claim happened to Keslinger Bridge during work on an oil pipeline in 2008.

A final push was made in negotiations, but Campbell said the two sides could not come to an agreement. The 10-month negotiation was the second round of talks among the parties. Former DeKalb County State’s Attorney John Farrell also tried negotiating a resolution.

Campbell said he did everything he could to avoid litigation because of the cost, but he said the county had to pursue compensation. To minimize costs, Campbell said Farrell - now chief of the civil bureau - will handle the case.

"The company that destroyed this bridge is refusing to take responsibility," Campbell said. "The citizens of DeKalb County should look forward to having their day in court because they are entitled to it."

The lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 7, seeks damages for the repair of the bridge in excess of $150,000, in an amount to be determined at trial. DeKalb County Engineer Nathan Schwartz previously has estimated the repairs could cost about $1 million.

"I feel very confident because we have a strong case in our support," Schwartz said.

Lorraine Little, spokeswoman for Enbridge Energy, said the company has not had a chance to review the lawsuit and declined comment.

The Keslinger Road bridge collapsed Aug. 19, 2008, when its eight timber piles buckled, splitting the concrete deck in two and plunging it into the Kishwaukee River.

Investigations by the Illinois Center for Transportation and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office showed the bridge likely collapsed because of trucks that weighed more than the legal limit crossing the structure.

Representatives from Welded Construction - which was contracted by Enbridge Energy to expand an oil pipeline in the area - admitted it had trucks weighing between 150,000-155,000 pounds crossing the bridge without proper permits.

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