The drawbridges in downtown Joliet will be in various states of repair and upgrades for months.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is making upgrades as it prepares to put the six drawbridges over the Des Plaines River under a new remote bridge tender system that is slated to start later this year.
Meanwhile, major repairs and maintenance are planned for the Cass Street bridge and the Brandon Road bridge, which is located outside of downtown but offers an alternative route over the Des Plaines River.
Five of the six drawbridges maintained by IDOT are in the downtown area. In addition, to Cass Street, there are bridges at Ruby, Jackson, Jefferson and McDonough streets.
The Jackson Street bridge currently is closed for upgrades needed for the remote tender system in which tenders will be moved away from the individual bridges and centralized at the IDOT bridge office in Joliet, where they will control the bridges remotely.
The Jackson Street bridge upgrades were to be completed in late April, but the bridge closure has been extended until late May when a need for new parts was discovered, IDOT spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said.
“Once we got in there, we found there was another part that needed replacement and fabrications,” Castaneda said, “We do have the part we need in hand.”
Fabricating new parts for the 1930s-era bridges sometimes takes months. In this case, it was a matter of weeks to manufacture motor couplings that had worn out on the Jackson Street bridge.
The westbound-only Cass Street bridge is open but reduced to one lane for repairs that also were scheduled to be completed by late April but will stretch into mid-May, Castaneda said.
The structural steel repairs on the bridge were needed to avoid further reduction in the posted load limit.
“When we got in there, we noticed that there were some additional repairs that were needed,” Castaneda said. “Once that’s done, we have to restripe the entire bridge.”
The Cass Street bridge will be closed completely for updates needed for the remote control project once the Jackson Street bridge is reopened.
The plan for the Joliet drawbridges includes:
• Closing the Cass Street bridge for as long as two months to be equipped for the remote bridge control system once the Jackson Street bridge is reopened, which is expected in late May.
• Closing the McDonough Street bridge for as long as two months to be equipped for the remote bridge control system once the Cass Street bridge is reopened.
• Closing the Brandon Road bridge for three or four months at an undetermined date, but possibly late summer or early fall this year, for repairs that include structural steel, mechanical and electrical work.
• Closing the Cass Street bridge for a major rehabilitation project at a time yet to be determined.
• Closings of the Brandon Road and Ruby Street bridges probably sometime in 2023 to equip those bridges with the remote bridge control system that will begin operation this year.
“We’re hoping to get some of the bridges on the remote system in late summer or early fall,” Castaneda said. “We’re starting with Jefferson Street.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is requiring a 60-day trial run on one of the bridges to see how the remote system works, and IDOT has chosen the Jefferson Street bridge for the trial period.
“The goal is to have all of the bridges on,” Castaneda said, “but I think there will be a little bit of a lag.”
Some bridges may not be on the remote system until 2023, she said.