canada africa partner reservation The Illinois River Bridge near Florence is still in the design phase

The Illinois River Bridge near Florence is still in the design phase

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FLORENCE — Construction of a new bridge over the Illinois River in Florence is still a few years behind schedule because the project is still in the design and land acquisition phases.

The project would build a new bridge approximately 300 feet south of the existing bridge. The Florence Bridge is a vertical lift bridge that carries traffic on Illinois Routes 100 and 106 between Pike and Scott counties.

Paul Wappel, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the project is still in Phase 2.

“The design phase includes preparing contract plans and specifications for the improvement; coordinating with utilities, local agencies and other regulatory authorities (for permits); and acquiring additional rights or easements to complete the improvement,” Wappel said.

The original bridge was built in 1929 and is nearing the end of its life. It has been repaired several times, both due to normal wear and tear and after some collisions with inland vessels.

IDOT began planning the bridge replacement in 2016 with public hearings to discuss options.

The design proposal includes increasing the distance between supports under the bridge from 60 meters to 120 meters to allow easier access for barges and hopefully minimize collisions between barge bridges.

Construction can begin once designs are approved and all land purchases are completed, Wappel said. The department wants to purchase 54.8 hectares of land on priority basis for the project.

The current bridge will remain open to traffic while construction of the new bridge is completed. When the new bridge is completed, the old bridge will be demolished.

The Federal Highway Administration approved environmental reviews, which found the project would not have a significant impact on the local environment, project engineer Jay Wavering said.

Although IDOT is required to offer the old bridge for donation to local municipalities, the department has received no interest from anyone who asked to take over responsibilities for the bridge.

“In January and March 2019, a public notice offering a donation was placed twice in four local newspapers,” Wappel said. “No interesting responses to the advertisement were received by the deadline of April 15, 2019. Due to the lack of interested parties, IDOT videotaped the existing bridge, capturing its historic features and developed a video showing the history of the drawbridges over the Illinois River bridge, which is available to the public.”

The video is available on the Illinois State Archaeological Survey YouTube page as part of the Historic Bridges series.