JOLIET – The Cass Street bridge opened at noon Wednesday.
The reopening of the bridge, which was closed for four months, means Cass Street will be available for traffic leaving downtown during Joliet's Light Up the Holidays Festival and Parade on Friday.
The downtown bridge over the Des Plaines River had been closed since mid-July for a paint and cleaning job aimed at preventing deterioration.
"I'm thrilled that the Cass Street bridge will be in service in time for our holiday festival and parade, and for Small Business Saturday the next day, and for the holiday season," said Lauren Las, marketing and event manager for the Joliet City Center Partnership.
Thousands of people typically attend the Light Up the Holidays Festival and Parade, with most of them converging downtown before the parade, which starts at 5:30 p.m., and leaving when it's done.
Cass Street at the bridge is westbound only, so it is only used by motorists leaving or passing through downtown. But any bridge closing clogs traffic during high-volume times downtown.
"We have so many shops and businesses downtown that would really benefit from the bridge being down to have their holiday shopping," Las said. "It makes it that much easier to get downtown and patronize them."
Joliet has five drawbridges downtown. They are operated and maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The bridge was only painted at street level and below, similar to the previous painting and cleaning job on the Jefferson Street bridge.
Unlike the Jefferson Street bridge, contractors were able to finish the Cass Street job in one season. The Jefferson Street bridge was closed in 2015 for painting and cleaning, but needed repairs were discovered during the project, and the paint job was shut down for the winter before continuing again through spring 2016.