Long Grove covered bridge to be closed 9 or 10 months, 'best-case scenario'

Long Grove's iconic covered bridge will be closed into next year to accommodate repairs to the span that sustained heavy damage from a truck smashing through it soon after it became a national landmark in June, officials said Tuesday night.

Village Engineer Geoff Perry said at the village board meeting experts will return to investigate the Robert Parker Road bridge Wednesday. He said temporary wooden bracing will be inspected along with limestone abutments in the bridge's substructure, now accessible with a decline in Buffalo Creek's water level.

Perry told the village board it'll be a lengthy process to repair the covered bridge, which includes obtaining a construction permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Long Grove also is working with National Register of Historic Places representatives as part of the process, officials said.

"Our best-case scenario at this point, just looking at this (bridge) getting a new timber cover constructed, it will be nine to 10 months," Perry said. "And that's best case. We still don't know a lot of things."

The bridge was found "at an unacceptable risk of collapse," according to a report from Civiltech Engineering Inc. a day after the crash.

Lake County sheriff's police said Deputy Greg Abshire was doing paperwork while parked near the bridge when he heard a loud crash that turned out to be the box truck striking the top of the structure on the late afternoon of June 27. The bridge has been closed to traffic since then.

Truck driver Eriberto Orozco, 30, of the 3500 block of North Lowell Avenue in Chicago, was cited for disobeying a stop sign, disobeying a traffic control device, driving an overweight vehicle on the bridge and failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, police said.

Dating to the early 1900s, the one-lane bridge landed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 15. The official word from the National Park Service came to members of the Long Grove Historical Society about a year after the structure was recommended by the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council.

Constructed in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Co., the span is a rare surviving example of a pin-connected pony truss bridge built for an urban setting, according to documents submitted to the state for the national landmark process. The "nostalgic covering" was added in 1972 to help preserve the bridge and limit traffic from trucks and other heavy vehicles.

Civiltech engineer Greg Hatlestad wrote in a report that as the truck went through the bridge from the west, it knocked off the timber cover and its lateral bracing. Other damage included cracking and splitting of timber posts on the bridge's west side.

"The steel trusses do not appear to have been significantly damaged as a result of the timber cover contact," the engineer wrote in the report.

Village President Bill Jacob said a semitrailer truck driver Tuesday went past signs noting the bridge closure at Coffin Road and Route 53. He said the driver turned around in a church parking lot just before the covered bridge.

Police said Orozco violated a sign stating "no truck or buses" and warning of a $500 fine, posted on either side of the bridge spanning Buffalo Creek. Besides not fitting under the 10-foot, 6-inch-tall bridge, authorities said the 15,000-pound empty rental truck exceeded a 6,000-pound limit.

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  This was Long Grove's iconic covered bridge on Robert Parker Coffin Road on June 28, a day after police said a truck that exceeded a height limit bashed through it. Daniel White/
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