JOLIET – The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to work on three more downtown bridges this year once the Jefferson Street project is done.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said city officials plan to talk with IDOT about ways to ease the effect of bridge closings throughout the year.
So far, turning Cass Street into a two-way street when other bridges are down does not appear to be an option.
The Jefferson Street bridge was closed last week for a paint job that is expected to last into June.
IDOT plans for the downtown bridges over the Des Plaines River include:
• Closing the Cass Street bridge once Jefferson is done for painting scheduled for completion in the fall.
• Closing the Jackson Street bridge for an estimated two weeks once the Cass Street bridge is done for mechanical and electrical repairs.
• Lane closures on the Ruby Street bridge for a few days at some point later this year for repairs on the steel grid deck.
“We are going to meet with IDOT and have a global conversation about the bridges,” O’Dekirk said.
Just what can be done, however, is unclear. The bridges were built in the 1920s and regularly need repairs and maintenance. Replacement parts often must be custom-made, leading to long repair jobs.
At a City Council meeting last week, Councilwoman Jan Quillman asked city officials to press state officials again to have Cass Street converted to a two-way bridge while the Jefferson Street bridge is down.
Cass Street is westbound only. But it was made two-way during one bridge repair several years ago. The two-way conversion is seen by many as a good way to ease the drive in and out of downtown.
Since Cass Street also is Route 30, the state has control over changes in the road.
IDOT spokeswoman Gianna Urgo said in an email that the state agency is not inclined to make Cass Street two-way.
“Temporarily switching Cass Street to two-way traffic is not an easy endeavor,” Urgo said. “The change in traffic patterns poses a grave safety concern for people that might turn the wrong way. Switching to two-way traffic requires modification of infrastructure, traffic signals and very intensive changes to signing and pavement markings.”
JOLIET BRIDGE SCHEDULE
• Jefferson Street bridge painting scheduled for completion in June
• After Jefferson Street opens, Cass Street bridge will close for paint job expected to be done in the fall
• After Cass Street reopens, Jackson Street bridge will close for two weeks for mechanical and electrical repairs
• Ruby Street bridge will stay open but there will be daytime lane closures at some point for repair of the grid steel deck