Long Grove board informally votes against two-lane replacement bridge

Long Grove's one-lane bridge dating to the early 1900s received lots of Valentine's Day love at a packed village board meeting Tuesday night.

Gerald Forsythe, whose family owns about one-third of downtown properties, offered $25,000 toward saving the Robert Parker Coffin Road covered bridge.

"I'd also like to see an organization in Long Grove establish a fund to save the bridge," said Forsythe, an auto racing mogul whose Buffalo Grove-based Indeck Energy Services builds power plants.

In addition, about 150 spectators learned the bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

With that activity as a backdrop, all six village board trustees informally agreed, by a show of hands, to stop investigating the possibility of a new two-lane replacement bridge. Instead, they'll shift efforts into one-lane options, including saving the current span.

Instead of a cramped village board meeting room, officials moved the session to the Long Grove Community Church's community house to accommodate the expected large crowd of covered bridge fans. Church members even provided sweet treats for the crowd.

Ryan Messner, chairman of the Downtown Long Grove Business Association's executive committee, has led a save-the-bridge effort and attended Tuesday's meeting. So far, the work has included a push for the National Register of Historic Places listing and circulating online and paper petitions that gained at least 3,200 signatures in favor of keeping the bridge.

"We're trying to save our bridge because it's out character in town," Messner said. "We're trying to find a way to come up with (private) funding."

The Illinois Department of Transportation issued a memo Thursday stating the bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. That determination was made by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, according to the memo.

It is not yet known what a landmark status could mean for trying to obtain federal funding to help pay for a covered bridge renovation, officials said.

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 in December 2013 and the idea of a two-lane replacement surfaced.

Federal financial assistance would be available if the village pursued tearing down the bridge and building a new two-lane span. 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.

An updated estimate from an engineering consultant shows it could cost about $850,000 to renovate the current bridge. Work would include removal of the entire structure, salvaging steel, replacing abutments and building a new cover.

For an estimated $910,000, the village could get a new one-lane bridge. Under that proposal, 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.

Campaign begins to save iconic Long Grove bridge

Campaign continues to save Long Grove covered bridge

Bridge backers speak up in Long Grove

  Gerald Forsythe, whose family owns about one-third of downtown Long Grove properties, speaks at a village board meeting Tuesday night. He offered $25,000 to help save the village's 111-year-old covered bridge on the western edge of downtown. Bob Susnjara/
  About 150 spectators attended a Long Grove village board meeting that featured discussion on the future of the iconic covered bridge at the downtown entry from the west. The meeting was shifted from village hall to Long Grove Community Church's community house. Bob Susnjara/
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