Long Grove hears from covered bridge supporters

As Long Grove officials grapple with potential costs to repair or rehabilitate the village's iconic bridge, they heard pleas to save the one-lane structure that dates to the early 1900s.

As part of the process, village board members must decide if they want to continue with a first-phase engineering study exploring the renovation of the covered bridge and construction of a new one- or two-lane span on the western edge of downtown. The complete report could cost the village up to $150,000.

Roughly 50 spectators, many of them downtown business owners in favor of keeping the bridge over Buffalo Creek, packed village hall for a meeting Tuesday night. Concerns were voiced about losing a longtime village symbol beloved by visitors, plus the possibility of dangerous conditions for downtown pedestrians if the two-lane option were selected.

"This bridge represents the collective heartbeat of our past," said John Kopecky of Country House of Long Grove. "And that's as simple as I can say it."

By most accounts, the steel-pin-connected pony truss bridge was built in 1906 and received the cover in 1973. Its fate has been a source of discussion since village officials cited its poor condition about three years ago and the idea of a two-lane replacement surfaced.

Mayor Angie Underwood said officials this week learned the village won't be reimbursed through a federal program for the engineering study's $150,000 full cost unless the two-lane bridge is built. Long Grove has paid $65,000 for work already performed and would have to authorize $85,000 more to complete the report.

"This is news to this board," Underwood said. "We were under the impression that we were exploring this (one-lane) option knowing that we were not on the hook to pay 100 percent of these (study expenses) to pursue this."

Trustee George Yaeger said the complete engineering study would be worth the money so residents have all available information about the bridge options.

Federal financial assistance is expected if the village decides to tear down the bridge and build a new one. The program cannot be used for the one-lane bridge options because they would not meet modern requirements for wider and heavier vehicles, officials said.

Village Engineer Geoff Perry said an updated estimate from a consultant shows it could cost about $850,000 to renovate the current bridge. He said work would include removal of the entire structure, salvaging steel, replacing abutments and building a new cover.

A new one-lane bridge is tentatively projected to cost $910,000. Perry said the bridge would receive a cover and look like the old span.

Long Grove could pay $370,000 toward a $1.4 million two-lane span through the federal bridge replacement program, according to village documents.

Ryan Messner, chairman of the Downtown Long Grove Business Association's executive committee, told the village board about 3,200 signatures have been received for save-the-bridge online and paper petitions. The effort also is backed by Long Grove Community Church, Montessori School of Long Grove and the village's historical society.

Campaign begins to save iconic Long Grove bridge

Campaign continues to save Long Grove covered bridge

Long Grove's covered bridge is so revered that its image is featured on the village website's main page and on stationery. But the bridge's poor condition has sparked talk by village officials about a replacement over Buffalo Creek. Daily Herald file photo
  Long Grove Village Clerk Amy Johns Gayton, far right, speaks in favor of keeping the town's covered bridge during a meeting Tuesday. From left are Village Attorney Victor Filippini, Village Manager David Lothspeich and Mayor Angie Underwood. Bob Susnjara/
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