The worn steel city

Joliet, Ill., battles crumbling bridges, including I-80 span

By Bill Wilson
APRIL 01, 2019

I-80 des plaines bridge

 

Joliet, Ill., was at one time a true blue-collar city. Steel fabrication echoed through the streets of this river dwelling … a constant buzz was in the air.

Today that collar is badly faded and has a couple of noticeable stains on it, one being the I-80 bridge over the Des Plaines River, specifically its westbound portion which received a bridge inspection report full of engineering expletives a year ago, and still remains open to traffic today with a promise of repair work in May.

Joliet has a total of five bridges crossing the Des Plaines River, and all of them have lost significant strength over the years. The Ruby Street Bridge, which carries S.R. 53, West Bridge Street Bridge, Cass Street Bridge, Jefferson Street Bridge, and the I-80 westbound and eastbound structures are all structurally deficient. Four of them received a rating of 2 out of 9 in at least one bridge inspection category over the last year. The Ruby Street Bridge received a 2 in the Deck Geometry category, with inspectors tagging it “structurally intolerable” and a “high priority for replacement.” The West Street Bridge received identical marks, as did the Jefferson Street Bridge, which also received a 3 rating in the Structural Evaluation category marked “structurally intolerable.” But the most critical span is the I-80 bridge, which is made up of two spans that carry over 84,000 cars every day. The I-80 westbound bridge received a rating of 2 in the Superstructure and Structural Evaluation categories, with the superstructure flagged in critical condition which “may require closure.” The eastbound portion is in only slightly better health, receiving a 3 rating in the Structural Evaluation category.

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