GLENVIEW – In response to the collapse of the bridge that was under construction in Minnesota last week, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced it will take additional steps in advance of bridge rehabilitation projects to ensure that the structures can safely carry traffic while they are under construction. This will require the temporary closure of these structures before the projects can proceed. The Interstate 35W Bridge in Minnesota had been deemed structurally deficient and was under construction at the time of the collapse.
“IDOT’s number one priority is always the safety of the public,” said IDOT Secretary Milton Sees. “Even though Illinois has one of the safest bridge networks in the country, in response to the Minnesota bridge failure, IDOT is increasing the level of structural inspections for bridges that are about to undergo repair and rehabilitation. We want to ensure that these structures can safely carry traffic while work is underway. This will require the full closure of these bridges prior to construction. Inspectors will be looking for deterioration since the last inspection and will recommend whether additional support to the structure is needed before construction can commence.”
Sees said that the first bridge to be inspected under the new policy would be the structure that carries IL Rt. 21/Milwaukee Ave. over the Union Pacific Railroad in Glenview, in northern Cook County. The bridge is currently posted with a weight restriction of 20 tons. A full loaded semi-truck can carry up to 40 tons. Sees said that IDOT expects to seek bids next month for repairs on the Milwaukee Ave. bridge.
In the wake of the Minnesota bridge collapse last week, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich directed IDOT to immediately inspect similar structures in Illinois as well as high volume bridges crossing major waterways, and bridges that were under construction. The order from the Governor came before federal authorities issued a similar directive. IDOT is responsible for almost 8,000 bridges out of 26,000 bridges in the state. Currently, 37 IDOT bridges have weight restrictions.
Sees said that initial visual inspections of these structures have been carried out and that data from these inspections is being analyzed. In addition, IDOT is also evaluating all bridges that have low inspection ratings to look for the possibility of structural fractures.
Secretary Sees said that the Minnesota bridge collapse underscores the need for approval of a capital investment program for Illinois to provide additional funding for bridge and road projects across the state.
“In the absence of a capital bill, bridges with weight restrictions will become more commonplace, and critically needed improvements will be indefinitely delayed,” Sees said.
The proposed $10 billion capital plan being discussed by the Governor and legislators in Springfield, Illinois would leverage additional federal funds for a total of $22 billion for infrastructure needs over the next several years. The Governor has proposed and lobbied for capital investment and job creation proposals for four years, but those plans failed to gain bi-partisan support from the Legislature.