Make no small plans: Kendall County’s newest bridge decades in the making

The Eldamain Road bridge dwarfs construction equipment below. The Fox River crossing is only the eighth in Kendall County history and the first since the Orchard Road bridge opened in 2001. (Mark Foster --

Editor’s note: Here is the first in a series of three stories on the Eldamain Road bridge project to span the Fox River between Yorkville and Plano. Look for the second part of the series, “Creating connections,” and the third part, “Building the bridge,” coming soon. This story, “Making no small plans,” focuses on the historic nature of the project.

The Eldamain Road bridge is perhaps the most ambitious engineering project in the history of Kendall County.

The 1,557-foot span will be the county’s longest. It is just the eighth Fox River crossing location in Kendall and the first since the opening of the Orchard Road bridge in 2001.

Critically, the bridge will establish a much-needed north-south connection between U.S. Route 34 and Illinois Route 71.

The new river crossing site is located about halfway between the Route 47 bridge in downtown Yorkville and the Fox River Drive bridge just south of Plano, a five-mile gap.

Work on the Eldamain Road bridge has been underway for more than a year, but there was a much longer road to be traveled before construction could get started.

It was 1991 when Kendall County began working on creating a centerline for the Eldamain corridor from Route 34 north of the river to Fox Road south of the waterway. The centerline was recorded in 1994.

Over the next decade, the county planned, held endless hearings, conducted environmental studies, commissioned traffic projection studies and met with Yorkville and Plano leaders to gain perspective.

Kendall County Highway Engineer Fran Klaas, left, and county board Chairman Scott Gryder during an inspection tour of the Eldamain Road bridge, which commands picturesque views of the Fox River and surrounding forest preserve lands. (Mark Foster --

Finally, in 2005, President George W. Bush signed a transportation appropriations bill providing $4 million for engineering and land acquisition for the project, secured by U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, as a “legislative earmark.”

By 2013, real progress was being made. The environmental assessment was approved and the county board began the process of negotiating with land owners for the purchase of right-of-way for the road.

The following year, a development report for the project was approved by the Federal Highway Administration, bringing the first phase of engineering to a close, while the land acquisition efforts were completed in 2019.

Late in 2019, the Illinois Department of Transportation notified the county that it would receive $30 million for funding of the bridge construction.

In 2020, trees were removed from the right-of-way, while more than 31,000 seedlings were planted in the nearby Fox River Bluffs Forest Preserve in a mitigation effort.

The bridge construction contract of $35 million was awarded late in 2020 and work began on March, 10, 2021.

Work on the bridge has been running ahead of schedule, with completion expected by the end of the year until the start of a strike by heavy equipment operators at quarries and gravel pits in northern Illinois.

The sand, gravel and crushed stone “aggregates” mined by the workers are crucial to the production of concrete. The bridge may not be finished until next year if the strike is prolonged.

However, whether the bridge opens to traffic this year or not until next spring, the new crossing is sure to be heralded as a major achievement in Kendall County history.

One of the giant concrete piers supporting the Eldamain Road bridge is reflected in the still waters created by a coffer dam used for the construction project. (Mark Foster --