Bridge closure wears on Libertyville officials, residents
A delay in removing the decorative steel truss on the Rockland Road bridge over the Des Plaines River has frustrated Libertyville village officials who say the situation is dangerous and causing a hardship.
The crossing, which is co-owned by the village and Libertyville Township, has been closed since Feb. 1 after an inspection showed significant deterioration of the 100-year-old truss.
The crossing remains closed and residents are angry, Mayor Terry Weppler said.
"I don't blame them," he said. "I'm extremely frustrated. We were told to immediately shut the bridge down, which we did. We have done everything we can."
The Illinois Department of Transporation ordered the action because of potential danger to motorists and pedestrians. Traffic has been detoured to Route 176.
Saving the truss was determined not feasible and National Wrecking Co., of Chicago was hired to remove and scrap it. Before work can begin, its historic status was to have been reviewed within 30 days.
That deadline passed Monday with no word, prompting Weppler to send a lengthy email to Brad Koldehoff, IDOT's chief of cultural resources.
"This delay has caused extreme hardship to the community in the form of delayed response times for our emergency services as well as traffic issues within the community due to the congestion on Route 176," Weppler wrote.
He noted the construction company has other jobs waiting and can't guarantee it will be able to remove the truss quickly if it has to wait much longer.
Weppler said there is a danger of the truss collapsing under its own weight. Should that happen, the bridge could be damaged or a pedestrian injured.
The village has followed the rules, Weppler continued, and said any further delay was unreasonable. And even if it is determined the truss should be saved, the village does not have the estimated $1 million to replace the "purely decorative" truss, he added.
Libertyville Public Works Director Paul Kendzior said the village contacted IDOT Wednesday. The status was unchanged but an answer is expected from state historic preservation officials early next week, he said. Koldehoff, Kendzior added, has been understanding and responsive to the village's concerns.
Weppler grew up in the neighborhood near the bridge and said he would love to save the truss but has an obligation to residents to spend money wisely.
"Failing to remove the truss in a timely manner is a violation of that obligation," he wrote.
The truss was built in 1921 as part of a longer span over the Kaskaskia River in downstate Vandalia. It was decommissioned when the road leading to it was closed. Libertyville acquired, moved and installed the truss on Rockland Road in 1962.