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Bob Michel Bridge construction on track to start next month

 Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (front, middle) gives an update on Rebuild Illinois' Bob Michel Bridge Rehabilitation Project at the Peoria Riverfront Museum on Tuesday, as Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman (back, left) and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton (back, right) look on.
Collin Schopp
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker gives an update Tuesday on the Rebuild Illinois' Bob Michel Bridge Rehabilitation Project at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, as Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman, left, and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton look on.

The Bob Michel Bridge Rehabilitation Project is on track and is expected to start construction in just a few weeks.

While visiting Peoria on Tuesday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the full scope of the project and gave an update on construction plans.

“This modernization will make the bridge smoother and safer, not only for its cars and trucks, but for bikers and pedestrians, too,” he said. “With a new barrier wall separating the lanes from its new multi-use path.”

The $24.6 million project is a part of the ongoing Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan that includes plans to improve more than 2,500 miles of highway across the state.

The lanes and shoulder on the Bob Michel Bridge will be slightly reduced from their current width, by around one foot. The pedestrian and bike paths on either side will be consolidated into one 14-foot-wide, multi-use path, with a 1 1/2-foot concrete divider wall.

“If you have looked at fatalities nationwide, especially the last couple of years, during the pandemic, it has been steep. Not only in the state of Illinois, but nationally. A lot of the uprising fatality was for pedestrians and bicycles,” said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “That's why it's so important that we will and we should have that barrier wall.”

Osman also said the pedestrian path will link the recently extended Rock Island Greenway to the East Peoria side of the river for pedestrians and bicyclists for the first time.

Many of Rebuild Illinois’ infrastructure projects are focused on road conditions, but Pritzker said it’s important to diversify projects for everyone who uses roads and sidewalks.

“People are, you know, choosing to, you know, bike, walk and otherwise not use their vehicles, that's a great change,” he said. Also Peoria, it's so beautiful. And the views from the bridges are amazing. And they, you know, don't get enjoyed by enough people. Partly because, in the past anyway, the bridges haven't really allowed that.”

In order to keep construction moving along, the Bob Michel Bridge will be closed to all vehicle traffic during construction that is expected to last from about March 13 to Nov. 17. The trail will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists throughout the work.

Osman said there’s a number of benefits to closing the area off from traffic.

“The shorter time frame results in a lower cost, versus extending the work over several years,” he said. “More importantly, workers will not have to contend with live traffic. And drivers don't have to travel through a construction site, a situation that provides the safest experience possible for all of us.”

You can find more details on the project on the Bob Michel Bridge website here.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.