At the Illinois Department of Transportation, our top priority is safe and efficient transportation. We take this mission extremely seriously and work hard every day to provide our travelers with the best experience possible.
Recently, we’ve heard concerns regarding the health of the Interstate 80 bridges over the Des Plaines River.
We hear you and want to ensure we are being fully transparent as we move forward.
First, all of the state’s bridges that are open are safe for travel. If there are any bridges we believe to be unsafe, they are immediately closed.
These particular bridges in Joliet undergo a rigorous inspection schedule that goes above and beyond federal requirements. The results, which are shared online with the public and reviewed for concurrence by the Federal Highway Administration, show that these are older bridges requiring a greater level of monitoring and maintenance.
The ratings that have been widely reported actually are the “sufficiency rating” that evaluate many different factors. The condition of the bridge is one factor, but others, such as lack of shoulders, insufficient number of lanes and older design, contribute to the low rating and do not indicate a bridge is unsafe. Older bridges, built in areas that have experienced rapid growth and without the benefit of modern engineering and design, typically receive among the lower sufficiency ratings.�
The terms “serious” and “intolerable” in the inspection reports are standard terminology used to describe conditions on a bridge. They mean additional inspections and steps to maintain a bridge are necessary. They do not mean a bridge should be shut down.
Certain steel elements and other components on the I-80 bridges are showing their age and in need of replacement. None of these elements is at the point of failure that would create a threat to public safety.
At IDOT, we are in the process of awarding a contract this spring to fix some of these issues.
Long-term, we are working with communities, residents and the new administration to arrive at a solution for the transportation needs along I-80, which includes these bridges.
It will be a huge undertaking, requiring significant resources.
The I-80 bridges over the Des Plaines River, like much of the state’s infrastructure, are toward the end of their useful life and in need of reinvestment. The administration has made it clear that we need a capital bill. We look forward to working to implement that legislation, and updating roads, bridges, rail and waterway infrastructure across the state. The safety of Illinois travelers will not be compromised.
• Omer Osman is the Illinois secretary of transportation.
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April 16, 2019 at 10:09AM