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A Halloween Treat: Murray Baker Bridge Reopens Oct. 31

Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, center, announces the reopening of the Murray Baker Bridge after seven months of rehabilitation at the Gateway Building, Oct. 26, 2020.

After seven months of work, the Murray Baker Bridge is finally reopening to traffic.Gov. JB Pritzker came to Peoria on Monday to announce the reopening. He said the project not only wrapped up on time, but also stayed within its $42.2 million budget.

"This is an important symbol of the rejuvenation of the state of Illinois," Pritzker said.

The project is one of the first in the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan to reach its completion.

State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said it was a bipartisan effort to obtain the funding for the bridge work.

"I'm very proud of the work that we've done, and what it means within Rebuild Illinois, that we've connected two sides together," he said. "That Republicans and Democrats have worked together in true bipartisan cooperation to achieve something incredible."

Illinois Secretary of Transportation Omer Osman, a Peorian, said he anticipates the bridge will reopen on Halloween, weather permitting.

"We have completed, on schedule, the rehab of the Murray Baker Bridge, one of the critical freight and commuter corridors in all of Illinois, and a vital link to the world-class manufacturing and health care centers in the Tri-County area."

In addition to a new surface and better drainage, the bridge now features ramp metering system to ease congestion during afternoon rush hour from Peoria. Bridge lighting is another feature not seen in several years.

"I really do believe the lighting of this bridge is really a symbol for the future of Peoria, and for the trajectory of this state. This is just the beginning," said state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria.

Osman said the bridge can be lit up for special events, such as the 4th of July fireworks or the Festival of Lights in East Peoria.

Osman said the rehabilitiation work will extend the life of the Murray Baker Bridge by up to 40 years. Shutting down the bridge to traffic entirely shaved more than a year off the project's timetable, Osman said.

"Faster, cheaper, and safer," Osman said. "By deciding early on to close the work zone and condense the schedule, we have accomplished all three on this project."

The bridge was constructed in 1958 to carry Interstate 74 over the Illinois River. It sees about 67,000 vehicles cross every day.

State Senator Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, and U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, also spoke about the coordination needed on the state and federal levels to make the project happen.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.