Oak Park to patch failing bridges

More than $600,000 to be spent on repairs, repaving of decks

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Concrete falling onto the Eisenhower Expressway has, in part, prompted Oak Park to spend $136,000 on bridge and deck repairs at Home, East and Lombard avenues.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees unanimously approved the contract to BLA Inc. for the project set to take place this summer and into fall.

"They are definitely in need of work," Village Engineer Bill McKenna told trustees at the March 18 meeting. "It's not something I suggest deferring at all, and I don't think the state would allow us to, honestly, on some of the bridges."

The project will also include installing wood paneling under the bridges to catch falling debris, so it does not hit motorists below, McKenna said. BLA also will repair sidewalks, bridge joints, pavement and make improvements to the bridge decks.

McKenna told trustees that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) maintains responsibility for bridges over I-290 at Harlem and Ridgeland avenues – both are state highways. 

IDOT owns and maintains responsibility for the structural components of the five other bridges and part of the bridge at Austin Boulevard. Oak Park is responsible for maintenance of the bridge decks.

McKenna said IDOT conducts inspections on all the bridges and puts out a "sufficiency rating" for each structure that ranges from 0 to 100.

"That's the closest thing there is to an overall score for the bridge," he said, adding that it takes into account the structural condition of the bridge, serviceability and how well traffic flows over the bridge.

He said that the scores can be deceiving, though.

"Oak Park Avenue has an overall sufficiency rating of 65," McKenna said. "That number may scare you when look at school grades and say that's near failure, but that's looking at all those issues that aren't just structural."  

The village also plans to spend $515,000 in 2019 for repairs to the pavement on the bridge decks at the Home, East and Lombard avenue bridges.

The village will use infrared technology and radar to identify areas of deterioration on the bridges, McKenna said. 

He said the plywood installed to catch falling debris is expected to last for about 10 to 15 years.

The village also will replace parts of the sidewalk to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, McKenna said.

The project is a temporary fix while the village waits for the state to secure federal funding for a major overhaul of the Eisenhower Expressway. That will entail complete replacement of all the bridges over the Eisenhower. Current estimates for the entire I-290 project are between $2.9 and $3 billion, according to McKenna.

"Hopefully, these are the last major investments we have to make [before the Eisenhower reconstruction]," he said.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the village signed a letter of intent with IDOT in 2016, at which time IDOT said there was a hope that funding for the Eisenhower reconstruction would come in four to six years.

"I think it would be hard to see a 2023-2024 construction at this point," she said.

Trustee Bob Tucker said he walks the Lombard Avenue bridge every day and "it needs help."

"Falling concrete can be really dangerous, and I can't even imagine the liability," he said.

Trustee Dan Moroney said he "begrudgingly" supports fixing the bridges because of the forthcoming Eisenhower reconstruction.

"It always stinks to put money into something that you ultimately know is going to get ripped out, but it's our obligation to maintain a safe village," he said. 

tim@oakpark.com

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