Jefferson Street bridge reopening delayed
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org October 22, 2013 12:08PM
Updated: November 24, 2013 6:26AM
Peg O’Connell remembers opening McBrody’s, the popular downtown Joliet restaurant, during a Jefferson Street bridge closure that lasted longer than three months about a decade ago.
The business thrived during those months, said O’Connell, co-owner with her husband, Tim. But she’s hoping the bridge, which is on the way to McBrody’s for most West Siders, won’t be shut down that long again.
The bridge’s reopening has been delayed again, and the state isn’t saying how long it will be closed, after acknowledging that the latest maintenance project will not be completed by Thursday as planned.
“You just adjust to it and move on,” O’Connell said Tuesday, noting that much of McBrody’s daytime business is downtown for work and does not need to cross the bridge.
But she added, “I just wish maintenance was not months. I wish it was weeks.”
The Jefferson Street bridge was shut down Oct. 1 for what was expected to be three weeks, but the downtown drawbridges, built in 1932, often have unforeseen problems when crews begin to work on them. In this case, parts of the bridge could not be removed by conventional means.
“They had to even cut some of them off in order to install new parts,” said Jae Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, other parts were shipped off for analysis to determine if they needed replacement. If so, the wait for the bridge to reopen could be a long one. Replacement parts must be custom made because there are not any warehouses storing parts for 80-year-old drawbridges.
For now, a reopening date has not been scheduled by IDOT.
“They’re hesitant to set a date because things are up in the air,” Miller said.
She acknowledged that IDOT does not like setting dates that have to be changed repeatedly, something that often occurs when the downtown bridges are closed for repair.
On the bright side, there are five downtown bridges, which means alternatives to Jefferson Street. The official IDOT detour suggests using McDonough Street to the south.
At the Joliet Township offices just east of the Jefferson Street bridge, the closing is an inconvenience but not a deterrent to those who need general assistance funds from the township.
“It really has not affected our operations because people find another way to get here,” township Supervisor Dan Vera said.
Customers have been finding other ways to get to McBrody’s, too, O’Connell said. It would be better for business if the bridge were open, she said, but no one was shocked by the news that the target date would be missed.
“We have been joking about knowing it wasn’t going to open because this is what always happens,” she said.