Interstate 80 motorists last week started seeing billboard warnings about the Des Plaines River bridge, courtesy of a construction workers union.
The electronic billboard messages come after news last week of inspection reports that rated bridge conditions as critical and intolerable.
The Illinois Department of Transportation said the bridge is safe and has outlined a $5 million repair project to address problems found in the inspections.
In the meantime, the billboard has been giving two messages to motorists:.
One says, “Cross bridge at your own risk.”
The other says, “Bridge ahead in critical condition.”
The I-80 bridge in Joliet is “among the worst in Illinois. It’s certainly in the top 10,” said Edward Maher, communications director for Countryside-based Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
The billboard ads are the latest in Local 150’s Fight Back campaign aimed at alerting Illinois motorists to the deteriorated condition of the state’s road and bridges.
“These type of bridges exist across the state of Illinois, and so many people driving in Illinois have no idea what condition these bridges are in,” Maher said.
The Fight Back message is on electronic billboards facing drivers in either direction approaching the bridge. It’s on a rotating message board.
The message first appeared on a sign for westbound traffic on Thursday. Local 150 added a second message for eastbound traffic Monday.
Maher said this is the first location where Fight Back has used billboards, although it may do so elsewhere because of “several other structurally-deficient bridges at high-profile locations,” he said.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk last week threatened to post signs with similar messages on Joliet streets approaching I-80 entrance ramps if the state did not show a plan to fix the bridge.
O’Dekirk eased off the threat after IDOT officials discussed plans for the bridge. But Joliet officials said they pushing for federal and state funding for more extensive bridge repairs.
IDOT notes that its own maintenance plan for the bridge is reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration.
Fight Back has another campaign encouraging motorists to look up at the bottom of bridges if they are stopped underneath.
“You’ll be shocked at the deterioration you see,” Maher said.