Structural Weaknesses Revealed in Joliet Bridge Over Des Plaines River

IDOT officials say that the bridge is "safe to travel on" and that they are working to address safety concerns

What to Know

  • The bridge, which carries Interstate 80 over the Des Plaines River, has "structural weaknesses," an IDOT report says
  • The mayor's office is ordering officials to create a plan for dealing with a "partial or complete failure" of the structure
  • IDOT says that despite the concerns, the bridge is still safe for travel

After a state inspection revealed serious structural weaknesses in a suburban Joliet bridge, officials have begun formulating a "specific plan of action" for a "partial or complete failure" of the structure.

According to Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, the Illinois Department of Transportation has revealed in a new report of structural weaknesses in a bridge that carries Interstate 80 over the Des Plaines River.

“Following the disclosure, I have instructed Joliet public safety officials to begin coordinating with county, state, and Federal FEMA officials to establish a specific plan of action in the event of a partial or complete failure of the bridge structure,” the mayor said in a statement.

The mayor’s office says that since the bridge is under the jurisdiction of the federal government and IDOT, officials for the city and for Will County cannot take any proactive actions to repair the bridge themselves.

Instead, the mayor’s office laid out a series of specific plans that they could potentially enact to warn drivers of the bridge’s structural integrity.

In a document, the mayor’s office said that it could order the diversion of vehicles seeking to access entrance ramps to the highway, or post signs on Joliet streets that warn motorists of “the potential danger involved in traveling over the I-80 bridge pending repairs.”

IDOT released a statement of its own on Thursday afternoon, saying that plans are already in place to begin addressing the structural issues than that the “bridges are safe for travel.”

“While short-term repairs are already planned for this spring, the bridges are safe for travel and do not need to be closed,” according to an IDOT spokesman. “Despite ongoing funding challenges, safety will always be the Illinois Department of Transportation’s top priority and will never be compromised.”

The agency says that they are conducting a multi-year study that will identify a comprehensive solution to the highway’s operational and capacity needs, and that a new bridge could be on the table.

The price tag for such improvements could top $1 billion, according to the department. Part of the funding for such a project could come from tolls, according to IDOT.

Mayor O’Dekirk’s office said in a statement that it has contacted Governor J.B. Pritzker, Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Rep. Dan Lipinski about the bridge to “coordinate efforts to identify and appropriate” funding to initiative repairs on the structure.  

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