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Bridging the gap

SPRING VALLEY — The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) conducted a second public information meeting Tuesday on the replacement of the Route 89 bridge, and the news was generally good.

“Based on input we’ve received, we’ve developed two alternatives,” said IDOT location and environmental studies engineer Ted Fultz. “An east alternative, east of the existing bridge, and a west alternative.”

Either alternative would leave the current bridge open to traffic until the new bridge is built.

The possibility of closing the current bridge has been a major concern on both sides of the river since the project was announced last year. The project will include removing and replacing the existing bridge, which was constructed in 1934. The previous public meeting was held in April, and 243 comments were filed expressing opposition to the closing, and listed concerns including economic and business impacts, impacts to school routes and other public services, access to the Spring Valley Boat Club, grain elevators and other businesses, financial and travel time concerns with a detour, increased traffic and crash potential on Illinois 89 or the Bottom Road, and diminished property value south of the river.

On Tuesday, Fultz and other IDOT personnel presented information on the alternatives that have been developed, answered questions about the project, and received public comments.

Fultz said the bridge needs to be replaced because of its condition.

“If you rate a new bridge as 100, this bridge currently rates at 35.3,” he said. “Once it starts to be down at a sufficiency level of about 50, then we start to seriously look at the need to replace the bridge.”

The bridge is also very narrow, slightly more than half the recommended width.

In addition to widening the bridge, the project also calls for raising Route 89 on both sides of the bridge because the road is currently below the level of a 100-year flood.

Fultz said the project, which is estimated to cost $22.5 million, is currently in the preliminary engineering phase, which means reviewing all the options and coming up with the best plan. Phase II would include land acquisition and the creation of detailed plans, and the third phase is construction.

All three phases are funded in the state’s Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2014-2019.

“It’s not just a bridge we’re looking at,” Fultz said. “It’s one that is actually in our program for replacement.”

Fultz said the public’s desire to keep the current bridge open during the replacement project was a consideration in coming up with the alternatives, but not the only consideration.

“You have to consider what’s engineering feasible, and then look at the impacts to the community for different things. And then we also have to look at different environmental policies,” he said.

For example, the project would impact the federally-threatened decurrent false aster, a plant that can be found only along the Illinois River in Illinois and in far eastern Missouri. In addition, the current bridge is also eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fultz said IDOT will consider all the factors before coming up with a preferred decision, which as of now, means keeping the existing bridge open during construction.

“At this time we’re not pursuing that alternative but, depending on the situation, we have to weigh all of these things,” he said.

The preferred decision will be presented in another public hearing, which could be held as early as this summer.

There was a good turnout for Tuesday’s meeting, and generally people seemed to prefer the east alternative.

“It will have less impact to Barto Landing and the parking areas there,” Fultz said.
Spring Valley Mayor Cliff Banks said IDOT did an excellent job on creating alternatives that would keep the current bridge open.

“Our main goal was to keep it open, and they worked hard to keep it open for us,” he said.

Banks said he was hoping for the east side alternative because it wouldn’t affect Barto Landing. Banks said they are planning on creating a harbor at the landing, and work is planned to begin when the bridge construction begins.

City Engineer Jack Kusek was also satisfied.

“I’m very pleased with the way IDOT has put the options together,” he said. “I think that putting the bridge on the east side is economically a better option and seems to benefit everybody.”

Fultz said after Phase I is finished, Phase II usually takes an additional 18 to 24 months before construction could begin.

“For a major river bridge, it may require additional reviews by the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard,” Fultz said.

Construction itself is projected to last at least two construction seasons.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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