Long Grove's historic bridge, minus cover, ready to reopen
Downtown Long Grove's historic bridge -- out of commission since a truck crashed into it in late June, leading to the removal of its cover -- will reopen at 7 a.m. Friday, officials said.
It's the first time in 46 years the one-lane Robert Parker Coffin Road bridge is without its timber cover. Crews from John Neri Construction Co. Inc. of Addison began dismantling the damaged cover Sept. 8 and finished Tuesday.
Long Grove Village Manager David Lothspeich said engineers and the Illinois Department of Transportation have found the bridge safe for traffic, but final checks were needed before reopening. Vertical wooden posts and two horizontal beams have been left in place to serve as temporary clearance bars on the height- and weight-restricted span over Buffalo Creek, he said.
In addition, Lothspeich said, temporary barriers with flashing amber lights will provide visual cues for drivers to go through the middle of the bridge. Signs approaching and at the bridge warn it is 10 feet, 6 inches tall with a 6,000-pound limit.
Lothspeich said all of the measures are necessary to encourage drivers "to take it easy out there." Pedestrians have been able to use the bridge since Tuesday.
Two weeks after landing on the National Register of Historic Places, the iconic one-lane covered bridge was hit by a rented box truck June 27. It was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic as a result.
Lake County Sheriff's officials said Deputy Greg Abshire was doing paperwork while parked near the bridge when he heard a loud crash that turned out to be the truck striking the top of the structure.
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. He's to appear in Lake County court Dec. 5.
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 for the national landmark process. The "nostalgic covering" was added in 1972 to help preserve the bridge and limit traffic from heavy vehicles.
Long Grove Historical Society member Aaron Underwood, who assisted on the effort to get the bridge declared a national landmark, said he still isn't used the structure being so "naked" without the wooden cover.
"It makes you appreciate even more the beauty of the covering design -- the size, scale and design just really fits that space really well," Underwood said.
Lothspeich said the demolition crews salvaged as much wood as possible from the cover and placed it in storage. Some ideas have been floated about what to do with the timber, such as selling pieces as souvenirs, making coasters or repurposing it into public benches.
Village officials have expressed a desire to have the rebuilt cover similar in appearance to the original. The village board also will look at options for repairs to the bridge itself and costs.
Long Grove is eligible to receive federal assistance for the repairs because the covered bridge is a national landmark. Village Engineer Geoff Perry said the federal government would pay 80 percent of repairs through a program administered by the state, with Long Grove handling the balance.