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McClugage Bridge reopens after being closed due to fire

Smoke visible coming from the McClugage bridge on an Illinois Department of Transportation traffic camera Tuesday afternoon.
Illinois Department of Transportation
Smoke is visible Tuesday afternoon from the McClugage bridge on an Illinois Department of Transportation traffic camera.

The McClugage bridge is open again after closing for around an hour due to a fire Tuesday afternoon.

East Peoria Fire Chief Bobby Zimmerman said Tuesday night that a fire started in a construction crane mounted on a barge south of the new eastbound bridge.

"The bridge itself was not affected. This is a bridge assembly that's put together that holds the crane. It's used for the construction of the new bridge," he said. "The bridge needed to be shut down for safety. There was so much smoke, it would have been impossible to drive through."

Smoke was visible on project webcams and Illinois Department of Transportation cameras.

Both the East Peoria and Peoria police and fire departments responded. Peoria provided water support, while East Peoria used the temporary bridge built for construction to set up fire apparatuses.

Zimmerman said the crane is a total loss, and part of it still remains in the Illinois River after collapsing. He was unsure if any of the materials on the barge will be salvageable.

Traffic in both directions on the bridge was reopened around 5:30 p.m.

"I think both East Peoria and Peoria fire departments do a great job. And I think by working together with all of our resources, it was a bad situation that we made better fairly quickly," said Zimmerman.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Wappel said it was too early to tell if the fire would affect the bridge's overall construction timeline.

That timeline has already been pushed back. The $167 million project was originally supposed to wrap up by this winter, but it's now expected to go into fall 2024, with demolition work of the original eastbound span potentially stretching into 2025.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.