More Than 2,000 Illinois Bridges Structurally Deficient: Report

UPDATED 03/22/11 11:28 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Every day, Chicagoans depend on bridges, overpasses and underpasses that are half a century old or more.

But a new report released Tuesday says many of them pose a serious safety hazard to drivers, if action isn’t taken soon.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the report by Transportation for America says more than 2,000 Illinois bridges, or about 8 percent of the total, are structurally deficient.

For one example, the group says the overpass that carries Western Avenue over the intersection with Belmont and Clybourn avenues is severely deteriorated.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

The wear on the overpass is visible to the naked eye. Under the overpass, rust and corrosion are visible where the support columns meet the deck, and while above, rebar is exposed where concrete has cracked and crumbled.

The overpass was built in 1960 to provide easy access to the Riverview amusement park, which has been gone for more than 40 years. Outgoing Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) has said he would like to see the overpass demolished, but officials say there is just not enough money to do it.

“When the state of Illinois is spending almost half of its available transportation dollars on new transportation projects, instead of fixing crumbling bridges like this, we have a problem with priorities,” said Kevin Brubaker of the Environmental Law and Policy Center as he stood alongside the Western Avenue overpass. “We also have a problem with not enough dollars available. The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in more than two decades.”

Another problem bridge is the broad concrete Kennedy Expressway overpass at Ashland Avenue and Cortland Street. The concrete support columns are crumbling, and on some of them, rebar is exposed like ribs on a dry skeleton.

Transportation for America is made up of members of the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and city aldermen. They say the crumbling bridges are a public safety issue, and they are urging Congress to pass a transportation bill where more money is added for fixing roads and bridge, and also giving more power to the local government to decide where the dollars go.

Northwestern University civil engineering professor Joseph Schofer told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman Monday that the problem may not be as severe as it looks.

“As bad as it looks in terms of structural integrity, it may not be a huge problem,” Schofer said.

He says a hands-on inspection is what you need to find trouble, and those inspections have found just that.

Schofer said there is not enough money geared toward maintenance, but he also said the inspection program in place is “pretty reliable.” Inspectors are obligated to pull a bridge out of service if it presents a danger to the public.

But Transportation for America wants to take no chances. It was the Illinois Highway Authority that deemed 2,000 bridges across the state “structurally deficient,” and such problems can have consequences.

Most infamous was the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2007. Thirteen people were killed and 145 were injured when the bridge suddenly collapsed during the evening rush.

Standing near the Western Avenue overpass, Kathleen Woodruff of Transportation for America said worries about a similar collapse are not unfounded.

“The bridge in Minneapolis that we all remember crumbling – it was structurally deficient, and only really denoted as that months before it collapsed, so we’re running a risk,” she said. “It’s a safety issue.”

When asked if Illinois drivers are at risk, officials said, “Let’s hope not.”

  • The Crazy One

    But Schofer also said the inspection program in place is “pretty reliable.” Inspectors are obligated to pull a bridge out of service if it presents a danger to the public.

    That’s what they said about elevators!

  • Toon

    Put EVERYONE who is able-bodied and on WELFARE to work and fix these things. Make them do SOMETHING for the money the rest of us “give” them.
    THAT would at least cover the labor costs.

  • Smash Crasher

    Question: So where has all the money gone that was slated to fix these bridges the last 30 years?

    Answer: It was spent on the lavish pensions and benefits of the UNIONIZED city and state transportation departments so the leeches can retire with full pension after 20 or 25 years while the private sector Joe has to work until age 66.

    Just keep pulling that “D” lever you incomprehensible brainwashed, paycheck-to-paycheck fools. Oh, and how’s that 69% state income tax hike coming? Sure you’re feeling warm and fuzzy knowing that it’s paying for thousands of parasites to live high off the hog in their Golden Years when you struggle to get by. You deserve to be broke. Stupid Illinois democratic clowns. LMAO.

    • LOTD

      Great f-ing post!!!!! Well said and 100% TRUE!!!!

      • Tanya Livingston

        As a government public employee which you demonize, my pay is lower than comparable private jobs and I knew that. The trade-off was job security and a pension. As a Public Defender, I started at 24K and make much much lower than my peers in the law firms. Everything has tradeoffs. Where do you work sir?

    • Joe Patroni

      You are scapegoating working people, like Nixon blamed inflation on auto workers in the 70. What caused our inflation then and our recession today is unfunded wars (Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanitan) and massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The top 10 percent in this courtny control 60 percent of the wealth and money supply.

    • LOTD

      @Tanya………………..where did he mention PD’s or anyone else other then UNIONIZED city and state transportation departments ??? Are you telling me that you support some supervisor driving around in an ID(I)OT vehicle making 75K per year + benies??? OR the “pot-hole” teams?? They put 3 trucks with up to 8-10 workers out there to fix ONE lousy pot-hole and shut down 2 lanes of traffic to do it!!!! Why so many workers?? Ask the union!!! Hey, the driver just drives (and gets to read the paper)!!! Gimme a break!!!

  • Joe Rellik

    The wealthy have a lot to worry about. Police, Prosecutors and Probation Officers are being laid off in droves. Those are government workers protecting society, property and people. This county could turn into Libya or Egypt with masive inequlities and the unemployed police are going to be on what side?

  • Chivi

    There is an overpass I go under every day on my way to work. It is crumbling. It is on Kedzie Avenue between 21st Street and Cermak. There are big boulders holding the overpass together that have started coming loose. It is in horrible shape. It is a tragedy waiting to happen. One of those boulders comes loose and it can kill someone besides the fact that the whole thing could come down. We know what the problem is…what is the solution?? I want my money back!!!!

  • Hiroshi

    Please overhaul all bridges that are staning in Illiniois. We all carry our children to school or are going to the grocery store and we do not want to fall into the river and swim specially when the cold sets in. The cold water is not good for you.
    Just think how long this bridges has been standing without any repair and some of them has holes in it and they keep filling the holes but not changing the railings of any metal support that are suting like hell.
    Please, overhaul this bridges. They are a danger to everyone involved.

  • Patty Kaad

    My daugher and niece were involved in a near tragic accident when a block of concrete fell from the Peterson overpass on I-94 and crashed through the front windshield. They were luck to walk away alive. Mr. Schofer doesn’t think this problem is severe? I’ll be sending him the links that I have saved from the local press coverage. Maybe he will change his mind.

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