Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The relative nature of excitement

It's all relative I guess, but I'm pretty excited about the new bridge over the Union Pacific tracks that reunites Auburn Avenue in east central Chariton and allows me easy access to the Twin Lakes Trail. Others have considerably more substantive reasons to be excited --- the city, for example, since the old bridge's failure cut off convenient access to both the water treatment plant and the waste water treatment plant. And then there were the folks who lived on the "wrong" side of the tracks and found it necessary to travel (briefly) miles rather than a few feet to get into town.

A good neighbor out there promptly authorized construction of a temporary street down through his pasture to a railroad underpass and that eased the difficulties, but that was not an easy route. So opening of the new bridge is a cause for celebration.

A lot of the problem went back to the original covenants agreed to by the Rock Island line when it built the north-south railroad through Chariton almost a hundred years ago now. The railroad was supposed to provide and maintain crossings for non-rail traffic --- at grade in most instances but via bridges when the line passed through cuts.

Nearly all of these bridges were high-arched wooden structures two-lane for horses and buggys perhaps but hardly designed for internal combustion. They weren't that expensive to begin with, occasionally they just burned down especially when coal-fired locomotives spitting sparks still were in use and when railroads fell upon hard times, they weren't well maintained.

So finally two of these old bridges in Chariton got too dangerous to use --- the high-arched Auburn Avenue bridge and the bridge connecting the Bluegrass Road to the southwest part of town, flat because the cut there is very deep.

Technically, the Union Pacific was responsible --- but ... So the city worked and waited and collected money and finally got this bridge under way. And like I say, I'm really excited! I'd be more excited if there were a new Bluegrass bridge, too, but you can't have everything all at once.

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