The end of a quarry workers strike that stalled concrete production in northern Illinois is good news for construction of the Eldamain Road bridge over the Fox River between Yorkville and Plano.
The seven-week strike by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 ended July 26 when members ratified a deal with 35 Chicago-area quarries, mines and gravel pits.
The labor dispute halted the extraction of sand, gravel and crushed stone, known in the engineering and construction world as aggregate materials.
Aggregates are indispensable for the production of concrete, with the strike putting a halt to roadwork and other construction projects throughout the region.
Before the strike, Kendall County Highway Engineer Fran Klaas was forecasting completion of the Eldamain Road bridge project before the end of the year, well ahead of its mid-summer 2023 deadline.
Now, the lost time may mean that the new bridge will not open until next spring, with the fall’s weather conditions and the timing of winter’s onset becoming critical factors.
“There is still at least a glimmer of hope that it will be finished by the end of the year,” Klaas said.
While the strike put a stop to pouring the 8-foot-thick concrete bridge deck, work on the 1,557-foot span did not stop entirely.
Construction crews continued to erect the forms that will be used for the concrete pours, even as they installed steel rebar and the thousands of shear stud connectors that are welded to the top of steel girder I-beams that support the concrete bridge deck.
The span is supported by seven gigantic concrete piers. When the strike started to affect concrete production, the deck already had been poured from the north abutment to the central pier.
Three more concrete pours are needed to complete the bridge deck, Klaas said, and the work that continued during the strike means that two of the pours can take place as soon as concrete becomes available.
In addition to the bridge deck, there are railings, parapet walls and lighting that have yet to be installed before the opening of the bridge, which will have two vehicle traffic lanes as well as a 10-foot-wide bicycle path along the east side of the structure.
“There is a ton of work yet to do,” Klaas said.
That includes the road work associated with the $35 million project, particularly the extension of Eldamain Road south to Fox Road.
Whether the bridge opens, it will change driving patterns and promote economic development in Kendall County.
The project extends from River Road just north of the Fox River to Route 71 and farther south on West High Point Road.
The key connection created by the bridge will be from U.S. Route 34 to Illinois Route 71, two of Kendall County’s principal east-west thoroughfares.
The new river crossing site is about halfway between the Illinois Route 47 bridge in downtown Yorkville and the Fox River Drive bridge just south of Plano, a 5-mile gap.
At the southern end of the project, drawings have been rendered to show a future Lisbon Road extension, making a connection with Walker Road to the south, but there are no immediate plans to carry out the extension.
To the north, the existing Eldamain Road extends all the way to Kane County.
Eldamain Road is the boundary between Plano and Yorkville. Both municipalities and the county are looking at the road as an engine of economic development.
Motorists traveling the extension south of the bridge will find themselves on a wide-open, two-lane roadway, with the traffic lanes separated by an 18-foot median with concrete curbs. On the outside will be a wide shoulder and an open ditch drainage system.
The extension will intersect with Fox Road, just north of the railroad tracks, at a point where the east-west roadway takes a short jog on a north-south axis, linking with West High Point Road to the south.
Instead of a conventional intersection, the connection at Eldamain and Fox roads will be a roundabout, allowing traffic to flow in one direction around a central island, increasing safety and eliminating the need for a traffic signal.
Initially, the roundabout at Eldamain and Fox roads will have three legs, on the north, south and west sides. An eastern leg could be added later.
The Eldamain bridge is just the eighth Fox River crossing site in Kendall County and the first since the opening of the Orchard Road bridge near Oswego in 2001. At 1,557 feet, the Eldamain span becomes the county’s longest.
The bridge includes about 5 million pounds of structural steel and another 1 million pounds of steel rebar.
The $35 million project came in under the budget estimate by $10 million, Klaas said.
As bid out, the cost of the bridge itself is about $18 million, while the road work comes in at another $17 million, Klaas said.
Construction for the bridge structure began March 10, 2021.