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BNSF Railway and Burlington celebrate bridge to the future

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There's a packed house celebrating on Thursday at the Port of Burlington.

They're applauding a $150 million bridge project to improve rail service and river transportation.

"These bridges are a tremendous asset to our company," said Matt Rose, BNSF Railway CEO.

That's where Ryan Drew is more than a face in the crowd. He represents dozens of skilled workers that built this bridge to the future.

"Not only the money that guys get to take home and spend in the community, but the health insurance, pensions and retirement that's going to be invested is just huge for the community," he said.

More than 20 years in the making and four years of construction, the project became a reality with a mix of federal stimulus and private money.

"We see infrastructure all over the United States," Rose said. "At BNSF, we're going to spend close to $4 billion this year."

The new bridge will serve nearly 40 trains daily and open some 300 times a month for river traffic.

While the bridge is an important resource for the railroad, it's also a vital connection for commerce. That means jobs for families.

The lengthy project required hundreds of skilled workers. Good-paying jobs during a sluggish economy. Something to benefit Burlington's workforce.

"It's very good for us," said Scott Bessine, who worked as an electrician on the project. "We probably had 15 to 20 guys out there for a year, just electricians. That's not counting the crafts, iron workers and carpenters."

During the celebration, Drew reflected on the massive effort. They made it through the '08 flooding and brutal winters. And it put people to work.

"Every time I hear that the government doesn't build something, well, you can take a look at this bridge," he concluded. "It is there for a reason."

It will be bridging the gap for rail transportation and the town for more than a century to come.

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