St. Charles officials will place a check mark next to the project that has been their No. 1 priority for the past four years when the bridge at Red Gate Road opens to vehicle traffic Saturday.
The bridge is 40 years and $30 million in the making. City residents have funded a large portion of the project via a special tax levy that nets about $800,000 per year. Officials wanted the bridge to create another crossing over the Fox River and alleviate some of the congestion on Main Street. The project did meet with some opposition from residents living near the new bridge, who dubbed the project the local version of the "bridge to nowhere."
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The opposition faded when construction began in August 2011. The initial phase came in about $1 million cheaper than planned, helping the overall project to come in within the expected budget.
"This day has been a long time coming," Mayor Don DeWitte said in a written statement. "The Red Gate bridge will greatly improve transportation for the residents of St. Charles, and our township neighbors in the surrounding area. I am pleased and proud to invite our residents to witness this milestone event for the city of St. Charles."
The city plays host to a ribbon-cutting event at 10 a.m. Saturday. There will be brief remarks delivered in the commons area of St. Charles North High School, which is just across Route 31 from the bridge. The actual ribbon cutting will follow at 11 a.m. on the bridge.
The bridge provides a two-lane crossing over the Fox River. There also will be a pedestrian walkway that connects a bike trail from the high school to the Fox River Trail on the other side of the river, near Pinelands Road. The pedestrian pathway is still under construction; it is expected to be complete in the spring.
The opening of the bridge is expected to change some of the traffic flow around the high school, particularly during the morning commute. City officials will implement new traffic procedures starting today in the area of Red Gate Road and the north entrance to the high school's parking lot.
From 6:50 to 7:20 a.m. on school days, a St. Charles police officer will direct traffic at the intersection of Red Gate Road, River Ridge Drive and the north entrance to the school's parking lot. River Ridge Drive will be closed to all southbound traffic from River View Drive to Red Gate Road from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. The change means there will no longer be access to the school parking lot by driving directly from the River's Edge subdivision to the school except by pedestrians.