Until recently, Peoria had four crossings in both categories – all of them over the Illinois River – including both directions of Interstate 474. That span, which carries nearly 15,000 cars and trucks a day, underwent deck repairs in 2011 and is no longer deemed “structurally deficient.”
The other two in the Peoria area are the U.S. 24 bridge and the Cedar Street bridge, a cantilevered deck truss built in 1932 that has had some interim work done to shore up its steel over the last decade.
Mayor Jim Ardis says the city government is aware of the problems, but is also accustomed to feeling like “we’re the last ones to get anything” when it comes to the federal and state funding needed to make repairs.
“It is not surprising that these things keep getting pushed down the road,” he said. “With the fiscal state of our state … we’re really pushing the envelope on potential liabilities in all of these bridges.”
Illinois’ at-risk bridges also include the span over the Des Plaines River south of Joliet along Interstate 80, one of the most important transcontinental routes between New York and San Francisco. The west-bound and east-bound bridges were built in 1965 and now carry an average of 37,000 cars and trucks each day.
Others falling in both categories include the Quincy Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi River in western Illinois and some in the far southern corner of the state in Cairo. Many cross rural creeks and streams.
Three ramps leading to the busy Poplar Street Bridge, which soars past St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, are in both categories. Also on the list is an elevated section of the Kennedy Expressway across Chicago’s Ashland Avenue that carries 300,000 vehicles a day. Extensive repairs are under way.
The main problem in battling the maintenance backlog is money. It takes hundreds of millions of dollars – sometimes as much as $1 billion – to replace a major crossing with a heavy traffic load.
Federal fuel taxes, a main source of highway funds, do not keep pace with inflation and have not been raised since 1993. Meanwhile, politicians in control of scarce funds are often more keen to take credit for brand new facilities than to support something as un-sexy as bridge maintenance.
“Costs are up, gas tax revenues are down, and our decision makers do not have the backbone to tell us so and act on this,” said Joseph Schofer, a professor of civil engineering and transportation at Northwestern University.<< previous 1 2 3