Made any plans for Christmas yet? The project manager for Utica’s new bridge has. Kyle Videgar is going to take a day or two to catch his breath and then it’s right back to work.
Drive across the Illinois River via Route 178 and you’ll notice the new bridge is indeed looking like a bridge. Videgar, construction engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, confirmed that after numerous weather delays — Mother Nature has done no one any favors in 2019 — the structural steel has been erected.
“We finally got all our steel beams up, which is excellent news,” Videgar said. “Now we’re in the process of placing the bolts and tightening them up.”
And, yes, they will be done with that by Christmas — which was by no means a given.
As previously reported, construction was impeded this year by inclement weather and elevated river levels. Workers who’d hoped to wrap things up by Thanksgiving moved back their target completion date (for this stage of the project) to when Santa Claus starts loading his sleigh.
Fortunately, the weather sufficiently cooperated in recent weeks that structural steel will not spill into the New Year; but Videgar said there won’t be much of a Christmas vacation.
“It seems like with the upcoming program, there won’t be much of a break in the action,” he said. “We’ll be preparing for next year as soon as this is wrapped up.”
The feedback from the village has been positive. Mayor David Stewart noted “it’s been a pretty long project” and he’s pleased to see some tangible results.
“I believe we’re only about a year away now (from opening),” Stewart said. “All in all we’re very happy with the progress. IDOT has been great to work with and we’re very pleased to see how far it’s come along.”
Motorists are reminded to be extra cautious on the approaches, mindful that workers and construction vehicles will flit about unless and until Old Man Winter rears his ugly head early, as he did at Halloween.
So far, though, the outlook is encouraging. Forecasters are calling for temperatures to stay north of freezing until Dec. 11 with only a nominal chance of rain or snow.
Workers will be glad for a mild December because there have been few reprieves from the river or the skies. The river has flooded multiple times. Starved Rock Lock and Dam estimated at least 180 days were spent at or above flood stage.
Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or TCollins@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.