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Joliet Residents Worry 'Jenga Bridge' Won't Hold

Chicago (CBS) -- This month's bridge failure on Lake Shore Drive is renewing warning calls about a notorious overpass in Joliet.

Residents who live near the Briggs Street bridge over I-80 are pleading for it to be replaced before a proposed truck stop goes in alongside it.

The inspection reports showed that this bridge is in much worse condition than the bridge on Lake Shore Drive that failed. Residents worry a proposed truck stop set to go into the area will only lead to more problems.

Locals call it the "Jenga Bridge." It's easy to see why. IDOT used wooden cribbing to keep the steel beams from collapsing under heavy loads. Its span was listed in "critical condition" during its last inspection in November.  Its structural evaluation was listed as "intolerable".

Michele Scholtes lives a block and a half away from the bridge, and her husband works as a firefighter at the station down the street.

"I don't want to hear one day on his scanner that the overpass collapsed because he's going to be the one underneath that stuff trying to get people out," she said.

A group of concerned residents said they worry about a Love's Truck Stop set to go in right next to the bridge sometime this year that could bring an additional 600 trucks and 2,400 cars over the 54-year-old bridge.

"Will that bridge support it?" said Margie Cepon, whose family lives near the bridge.

IDOT said it can. The blocks are a short term fix, but the bridge is safe for travel.

However, residents note that a 2018 inspection report shows that crews maintaining the bridge have been wrong before, having to reinstall some of the wooden beams that were initially added incorrectly.

IDOT said the $3.5 million plan for replacement is in their multi-year plan for the next five years. But it's looking like it would happen towards the end of that plan, which goes through 2024. It's also dependent on funding.

"Instead of coming up with solutions, we're adding and exacerbating the problem significantly by adding and drawing more traffic specifically to these areas," said Stephanie Irvine of Neighbors Opposed to Annexation.

Residents feel like the truck stop shouldn't go in until the bridge is fixed.

"You are risking too much for this decision," Michele Scholtes said.

Joliet's interim city manager said this is "the best use for the property."

CBS 2 reached out to the truck stop company for comment but did not receive a response.

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