Long Grove approves repairs to extend life of iconic bridge

Long Grove trustees have agreed to spend about $77,800 in repairs to the village's iconic covered bridge projected to extend its life by at least five years.

Village board trustees Tuesday night voted 5-0 in favor of a deal with Woodstock-based Alliance Contractors for abutment and drainage work to improve the Robert Parker Coffin Road span over Buffalo Creek, which dates to the early 1900s.

"The thing is, we have to so this, right?" Village President Bill Jacob said. "We have to keep the bridge safe. We don't want to kick the can. It's something we need to do now in my opinion."

Village Engineer Geoff Perry said the $77,794 in improvements to the bridge should provide at least five more years of safe use. The work could extend the bridge's life by 10 years on the high end, he said.

Perry said Illinois Department of Transportation inspectors are expected to review the covered bridge next year. He said if IDOT were to deem the bridge unsafe "they put up the barricades right then and there."

Village board members deferred a vote on a proposal to place a new roof on the bridge for $17,500, agreeing to seek more potential bidders for the work.

Citing the covered bridge's poor condition, Long Grove officials have been exploring options to renovate or replace it with a one- or two-lane span at the western entry to downtown. Discussions about the covered bridge began in late 2014.

Long Grove's span was constructed in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Co. and is a rare surviving example of a pin-connected pony truss bridge built for an urban setting, according to the documents submitted to a state historic agency. The cover was added in 1972 to help preserve the bridge and limit traffic from trucks and other heavy vehicles.

Cost estimates to repair the bridge have varied, with the most recent being about $850,000. Perry said a long-term solution, including the possibility of a new two-lane bridge, will be needed despite the abutment and drainage improvements that'll be made to the span.

In July, the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council members voted in favor of the covered bridge's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The federal designation has yet to be made.

Proponents have cited the bridge as a key part of downtown Long Grove's identity, to the point it's incorporated into the village logo. However, opponents contend that a new, larger bridge would be safer and provide an updated appearance for the village.

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