Drivers in Peoria County have a 10 to 20 minute detour around the Lancaster Road Bridge, which closed Wednesday afternoon for safety reasons.
Caroline Cotterman lives in Lake Camelot, near the bridge. She says, “I was just driving on it yesterday, and then an hour later I got the call saying it was closed.”
The announcement felt sudden for people like Cotterman. Peoria County, on the other hand, knew the closure was coming.
County Engineer Amy McLaren says, “Its structural conditions have been deteriorating for a while. We have been monitoring it to try and keep it open for traffic as long as possible.”
4000 vehicles cross the bridge each day.
McLaren says there have been inspections each month since February. Wednesday the 18th, the Illinois Department of Transportation decided time had taken its toll.
“We found issues with the piers and the piles that actually hold up the bridge. There were holes in the steel that indicated extensive deterioration… We ended up closing it as a safety precaution for our motorists,” McLaren explains.
Since the bridge crosses the Lamarsh Creek in a more rural area, there’s no easy way to get around.
Cotterman says, “It is a big deal. Going like to Kroger and back, to the grocery store, it’s always kind of convenient to have it this close, and having the bridge down is going to be an inconvenience.”
Constance Mason, who’s lived in Mapleton for 40 years, says she moves slower than she used to – and she’s definitely concerned: “It’s horrible. It’s very… it’s gonna be very, very difficult for me to get to my doctors on time.”
The curvy back roads don’t help. Although the bridge may not be safe, now she’s worried about having an accident – especially in the winter.
Repairs on the bridge won’t start until spring of next year, when the county gets a grant to help pay for the costs.
It’s something McLaren says has been in the works for a couple of months.
She explains, “We’ve been looking at this bridge for a couple years, but it was a funding issue. So once we got the funding, we immediately proceeded with a design of a new structure at this location.”
The total redesign will cost $3 million and should be finished by fall of 2017.
For parents in the Illini Bluffs School District, the transportation department says the detour will add about five minutes to the bus route for some students.
According to the district’s website, “Our two regular bus routes that run in the areas of Coyote Creek, Saddlebrook , and along Cameron Lane might be running late in the remaining days of school due to the detour. Please be patient with us during this time.”
The district will be reworking the bus routes for next school year.