The Washington Street bridge has been a "gateway" into downtown Naperville for nearly 100 years, but now the aging structure has only a couple of years left before it will be completely replaced.
The city is developing plans to ensure work on the busy bridge that carries roughly 30,000 vehicles a day can be conducted smoothly.
Before completing preliminary designs for the reconstruction, which is set to take place in 2019, the city scheduled an open house for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in meeting room A at the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.
City engineers say they're seeking input on topics such as traffic management during construction and aesthetics of the bridge design.
The look and feel is important because the structure bisects the popular Naperville Riverwalk and connects Fredenhagen Park on the north side of the DuPage River with the future site of a gateway park planned by North Central College on the south, said Yifang Lu with the city's transportation, engineering and development department.
"The bridge is like the gateway to downtown Naperville," Lu said. "So we want the bridge to look great ... We want to make sure it is something everyone will like."
For the past several months, drivers of tractor-trailers and other large trucks haven't liked the bridge, as it's been closed to them with a 15-ton weight limit posted in several spots, including as far south as 75th Street and as far north as Ogden Avenue.
Fire trucks have been told to use nearby bridges on Eagle or Main streets, and the city has deployed smaller-than-usual snow removal trucks to clear the bridge of precipitation. Ambulances heading to nearby Edward Hospital still are able to pass.
The idea is to keep the heaviest vehicles off the bridge to preserve its structural integrity until it can be rebuilt. Lu said there is no risk to drivers crossing in passenger cars or pickup trucks.
"Trust me, it's still safe," she told members of the city's Riverwalk commission Wednesday morning. "It's still safe for us, the passengers."
The bridge was built in the 1920s and first rehabilitated in the 1970s. Its superstructure was replaced, keeping the foundation intact but installing new support beams, Lu said.
Then, in 2004, the driving surface was overlaid to extend the bridge's life by another 15 years. That's why the city is preparing for a $5 million to $6 million project to rebuild the span in 2019.
Engineers know it will be a "disruptive" project. But Bob Kozurek with the transportation, engineering and development department, said the plan is to conduct the work in phases, keeping one lane of traffic open in each direction as often as possible.
"Ideally we want to keep traffic moving," Kozurek said.
Work also will widen Washington Street to five lanes total -- two lanes in each direction with a center lane for vehicles waiting to make turns -- between Chicago and Aurora avenues. Finding space to allow the widening will require some "creative" engineering, something Kozurek said he and his colleagues look forward to completing with consultant Alfred Benesch & Company of Chicago.
"Our goal is to have a really cool bridge when we're done," Kozurek said.