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Drivers urged to be patient as the Bob Michel Bridge project begins

A $24.6 million rehabilitation of the Bob Michel Bridge gets underway this weekend. The Illinois Department of Transportation announced the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic starting Monday and the closure is expected to last until November.
Joe Deacon
A $24.6 million rehabilitation of the Bob Michel Bridge gets underway this weekend. The Illinois Department of Transportation announced the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic starting Monday and the closure is expected to last until November.

Motorists in the Greater Peoria area will have to contend with construction work on several Illinois River bridges this summer, most notably a $24.6 million renovation of the Bob Michel Bridge.

An eight-month closure of the bridge begins Monday to accommodate the long-anticipated redesign that features a new 14-foot-wide path for pedestrians and bicyclists that will be separated from the traffic lanes by a concrete barrier.

“The work consists of removal of sidewalks, reducing the outside shoulders to 3½ feet wide, and consolidating the bike and pedestrian space to the north side of the bridge,” said Illinois Department of Transportation public information officer Paul Wappel. “A new bridge deck will include a concrete overlay and new joints to help preserve and extend the life of the deck.”

Wappel said the 30-year-old Bob Michel Bridge handles a traffic load of about 17,000 vehicles each day. He said traffic between downtown Peoria and East Peoria will be detoured to the Murray Baker Bridge (Interstate 74) during the construction.

“The one thing we want to remind motorists always — anytime there’s construction, whether it's on a road or bridge or wherever it might be — is to please be patient,” said Wappel. “Pay attention to the orange cones and work zone signs. Please slow down, pay extra attention, be careful, and allow extra time to get from wherever you're going, from point A to point B.”

Wappel noted traffic will be reduced to a single lane in both directions Sunday in preparation for the construction, adding the bridge will remain open to bikes and pedestrians.

The project is part of IDOT’s six-year plan to upgrade several highways and bridges as part of the $33.2 billion Rebuild Illinois capital program for infrastructure improvements. The Bob Michel Bridge is one of three Peoria-area bridge projects on the schedule for 2023.

McClugage Bridge

Wappel said work on the new eastbound span of the McClugage Bridge carrying U.S. 150 over the river is “getting closer to the finish line,” with completion on target for next February after significant progress in 2022.

“Crews completed construction on 10 new McClugage Bridge piers last year, and that moves the project within three new piers of the 24 that are required to support the deck of both the main bridge and the ramp (from northbound Adams Street),” said Wappel.

“Workers will complete the bridge substructure in the next several months, and they'll be simultaneously constructing the 650-foot arch that will sit on top of the new bridge. The construction of the arch is occurring about 300 yards south of the new bridge site, and it can be identified by the green piling and the steel support towers on the Illinois River.”

Wappel said once it’s complete, the arch will be floated into place on barges, then lowered onto the piers on both sides of the navigation channel.

He said work on the McClugage Bridge hasn’t encountered any delays related to supply chain issues, but it’s uncertain if that will hold true for other projects.

“Every project’s different. It’s hard to say if we'll have any delays on any of these bridge projects, either the ones that are either underway or will be underway soon or in the future. It's just it's too hard to predict if there'd be an impact,” he said

Lacon, Henry bridges

On March 18, IDOT will shut down all traffic on the Illinois 17 bridge between Lacon and Sparland until November for a $10 million rehabilitation.

“It'll include steel repair, bearing rehabilitation, joint replacement, painting, bridge deck overlay, roadway lighting, drainage improvements, and some other related miscellaneous work,” said Wappel.

“Some of the special project provisions include some environmental accommodations that will be made to prevent debris — equipment, tools or any other construction related-materials — from falling into the Illinois River. That may result in closing the spans, except the main span of the navigation channel, to river traffic at times when that happens.”

IDOT’s recommended detour will direct drivers north to Illinois 18 and use the bridge at Henry to cross the Illinois River. According to Google Maps, that’s about a 20-minute drive.

Wappel said reconstruction plans for the Henry bridge are nearing Phase One of the process with engineering work expected to begin in the late spring or early summer on a project estimated at $108 million.

He said Phase Two — with development of a final design, construction plans and land acquisition — is likely to take 2-3 years, putting the start of work on target for 2026 and taking up to three construction seasons to complete.

While all the bridge work in the Peoria area may lead to some headaches for drivers, Wappel said ultimately the projects will be a major benefit to the community.

“It's all important work that needs to be done, and the end results of each and every one of the improvements I definitely think it’ll be worth it,” he said. “So we just ask people to be patient and allow a little extra time.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.