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Des Plaines River Bridge On I-80 Found Structurally 'Intolerable'

CHICAGO (CBS)-- A day after a cracked beam was discovered in a Lake Shore Drive bridge, CBS 2 investigated another bridge in desperate need of repair.

Last spring, inspectors found the Des Plaines River bridge on I-80 in Joliet in such bad shape, it may need to close.

Several months later, nothing has been done to repair the issues.

More than 42,000 drivers drive across Des Plaines River bridge everyday, and the most recent inspection reports reveal serious safety concerns.

Will Pruitt, a resident who lives near the I-80 bridge, is concerned. After years of noticing cracks and other deterioration, he stopped using the bridge.

"With all the trucks and stuff up there, it could be any minute," Pruitt said.

He is not the only one who feels this way.

Miguel works near the bridge. He said between the pot holes and slick conditions, he takes alternative routes.

An inspection in April confirmed their fears.

The westbound bridge was found structurally "intolerable" and the bridge's span was listed in "critical condition and may require closure." The bridge earned a sufficiency rating of 6 out of 100.

Anything below 80 is considered "deficient."

"It's very threatening," John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said.

Greuling said state and local entities have been aware of the structural problems for years as the county has experienced unprecedented growth in the freight industry.

IDOT has proposed rebuilding the Des Plaines River Bridge, but Grueling says they've been told actual funding and construction of that project could take decades.

"What we don't want is a bridge failure," Greuling he said. "What we don't want is loss of life."

Greuling is part of the I-80 Coalition Committee, which includes dozens of state and local stakeholders who are trying to expedite the process of funding a rebuild. The committee is pushing for federal funding and even asking the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to take over.

"If it takes an incident like the Lake Shore Drive bridge failure so be it," he said. "Thank god nobody was hurt or killed but that clearly our clarion call right now."

IDOT told CBS 2 they are still in the study phase for the project that will involve rebuilding the bridge. In the meantime, IDOT started performing inspections every 6 months and a maintenance project is tentatively scheduled to start this spring. That would include structural steel repairs.

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