IDOT's Bob Michel Bridge revamp shifts pedestrians, bicyclists to new multi-use path
For the last couple years, encountering — or avoiding — bridge construction has been the norm for commuters making their way across the Illinois River in Peoria.
First, there was the eight-month closure of the Murray Baker Bridge for a major restoration project. And currently, preparation work is ongoing at the McClugage Bridge, in anticipation of the demolition and reconstruction of its antiquated eastbound span next year.
The Illinois Department of Transportation already has another bridge in its sights for significant overhauls after the McClugage project wraps up: the Bob Michel.
Karen Dvorsky, bureau chief of program development for IDOT District 4, said improving bicycle and pedestrian access to the bridge is a major component of the $19 million Bob Michel Bridge project proposal.
Currently, 5-foot-wide sidewalks on each side of the bridge allow for pedestrians to cross. Those sidewalks are about six inches higher than the adjacent shoulder, but otherwise unseparated from nearby passing motor vehicles. Bicyclists often utilize 5-foot shoulders between the sidewalks and driving lanes.
Dvorsky said the current situation is uncomfortable for everyone. A proposed realignment would move all pedestrian and bicycle traffic to a 14-foot multi-use branch on the north side of the bridge.
"So all on one level, separated from traffic with a concrete barrier," Dvorsky said.
The bridge, constructed in 1993 to replace the antiquated Franklin Street Bridge, remains in decent-to-good structural condition overall. Dvorsky said it's time for a concrete deck overlay, however.
"In order to keep our facilities operating efficiently as possible, what we do is what what we call preservation or maintenance projects, kind of like putting oil in your car or changing the oil," she said.
Dvorsky said no major changes are needed to intersections on the East Peoria or Peoria sides of the bridge. Traffic on the East Peoria side of the bridge will be slightly shifted downstream to better accommodate the new multi-use path, she said.
Dvorsky said IDOT hopes to have construction documents prepared by the end of 2022, with 2023 being the earliest possible start date for work.
Under the proposed project timeline, IDOT anticipates completely closing the Bob Michel Bridge to vehicular traffic while the construction project is underway.
However, pedestrian access would remain open, allowing bicyclists and people on foot to continue crossing the bridge between downtown Peoria and East Peoria's riverfront business district.