YORKVILLE – The water levels on the Fox River have been too darn high and that's why the Millington Road bridge at the Kendall-LaSalle county line remans closed to traffic, according to Kendall County officials.
Phil Haake, who owns a construction company in Millington, said during public comment for the Tuesday, June 4 Kendall County Board meeting that his usual 2.9-mile trip to work has become an 11.8-mile commute with the bridge being closed since May 2017. He said two years of people dealing with the closure has been long enough.
“It’s reached the point of absolute ridiculousness for those of us that need to go around the bridge daily to work, take our kids to school events, equipment for firemen, or even something as simple as getting their mail for the people of the Belle Rive subdivision,” Haake said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation initially closed the bridge in May 2017 after officials discovered a scour hole under the north pier of the bridge during a routine bridge inspection.
Kendall County Board member Audra Hendrix, who represents District 1, said during the meeting that county officials are not happy about the situation, either, and have been told that another option is to literally build another bridge, but there isn't enough money for that, either.
“We are all in the same awful position where we literally have to wait for nature because there’s no alternative at this juncture,” Hendrix said, referring to the high water level.
Kendall County Engineer Fran Klaas, who was not at the meeting, said a contract has been awarded to repair the bridge, and work will take a few months once the contractors get that window of opportunity to start work up again. The high water level has prevented contractors from working because the churning water can rip out parts of the bridge and cause it to tip to one side, he said.
"The river hasn’t really been at a low enough level since October for them to do anything," Klaas said.
Klaas said it took about a year to put the plans together to fix the bridge and part of the delay had to do with waiting for LaSalle County to receive federal funds for the about $1.6 million project. He said the contractor, D Construction of Coal City, started work in late summer of 2018 but not much was accomplished because of frequent rain.
Klaas said the contractor is now looking at the possibility of putting in smaller causeways at the site to let more water pass, which they may end up doing unless there's an extended drought this summer.
Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder, who was not at the meeting, said it’s really important to the county to fix the bridge. He said he and other county officials are definitely aware of how the bridge closure created a hardship for people down there, whether it's safety concerns and day-to-day living as well.
“Any of those crossings over the river are important to us,” Gryder said.
Klaas said it's difficult for those affected by the closure to hear that nothing can be accomplished until water levels go down and that everyone – county officials included – are frustrated about the situation. He said the contractor is aware that everyone is keen on getting this done and the plan is to have D Construction jump on it full steam ahead once that window of opportunity opens for work to start back up again.
“We’re going to encourage them in every way to do that," Klaas said.