Downtown Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is the bridge being replaced?
The bridge foundation was constructed in 1928, widened in the 1970s and renovated in 2004.  The bridge components have reached the end of their effective service life. The bridge has a special weight load limit of 15 tons which prohibits use of the bridge by nearly all trucks. Replacing the bridge also provides the opportunity to improve the existing roadway geometrics, the functionality of the Riverwalk and overall aesthetics.

Is the existing bridge safe to use now?
Yes, the existing bridge is inspected regularly to confirm public safety. However, there is a 15-ton weight limit posted for this bridge in order to reduce damage from heavy loads like trucks.

How will the community be involved?
Input from the community is very important to make this project successful. The City hosted a first public meeting on February 9, 2017 and a second public meeting on September 20, 2017. Both meetings were well attended and very useful input was provided by public comments. As the project moves forward toward construction, additional meetings with stakeholders will also occur to assure that communication and coordination is at a high level. Everyone interested in getting involved and keeping up to date on the progress of the project should visit the project webpage at The city will continually update the project information on this page. We will also send out project updates via press releases, social media and electronic newsletter, which you can sign up to receive on the project webpage.

When will construction begin? How will traffic be impacted by construction activities?
The construction is expected to begin in 2020. Two basic alternatives to maintain traffic flow during construction were proposed. One option proposed maintaining a single lane in each direction, while the other option proposed a complete closure of the bridge. A complete closure of the bridge would minimize construction time; however a thorough analysis of the area determined that the alternate routes in the surrounding area would not be able to handle the increased traffic. For this reason, the rehabilitation of the bridge will take place through multiple stages to ensure that a single lane of traffic is maintained at all times. During the expected 11-month construction period in 2020, crews will likely close two lanes of the bridge at a time and complete work in stages. Nearby bridges like Main Street and Eagle Street will enable access to the downtown from the south. Through traffic on Washington Street will need to allow for greater travel time or use alternate routes.

The  proposed  roadway  will  be  widened  from  Aurora  Avenue  to  Chicago  Avenue  to  allow  for  a  continuous  left  turn  lane  and  two  through  lanes  in  each  direction.  An  additional  southbound  right  turn  lane  and  eastbound  left  turn  lane  at  the  Aurora/Washington  intersection will be added. Sidewalks will be maintained on both sides of future Washington Street. The City will continue to review options to create a traffic management plan to communicate road closures and optimize travel options.  

Will business access near the bridge be affected?
Access to businesses around the construction zone and within the downtown is a priority. Work activities will be staged to maintain the ability to travel to and from businesses throughout the project.

Will the Riverwalk be improved as part of this project?
As part of this project, the current Riverwalk sidewalk under the bridge will be elevated to reduce the frequent flooding that occurs. Other improvements associated with the bridge will further enhance the Riverwalk by providing a more park-like riverscape, improving visual aesthetics, lighting and pedestrian mobility. Separate plans by North Central College at 430 S. Washington Street will connect the existing covered footbridge at Fredenhagen Park to the Riverwalk west of the Washington Street Bridge.  

What will the bridge look like when completed?
Complementing the traffic and pedestrian mobility improvements the bridge will provide, the City intends to make the bridge safer and more visually paired with the beauty of adjacent parks and downtown architecture. This will include bridge improvements to provide sidewalks wide enough to carry two-way travel, barrier wall separation from traffic, architectural style and streetscape features like decorative lighting and landscaping. All of these improvements will be consistent with the new downtown streetscape standards and be similar in function to the Main Street and Eagle Street bridges.

What’s the estimated cost of the project and how is it being funded?
As of September 2017, the cost of the project is currently estimated between 5.6 and 6 million dollars. The city has secured federal funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to perform the project through the Federal Bridge Program, which will cover 80 percent of the cost. 

Will there be any property acquisition required?
Traffic studies have been performed to identify ways to reduce crashes and traffic congestion and travel delays. The preferred solution involves widening the bridge to five lanes which improves the left turn lanes at Chicago Avenue and Aurora Avenue and also includes the addition of right turn lanes at the intersection of Aurora Avenue and Washington Street. To accomplish these improvements, additional right-of-way on the east and west side of Washington Street from the bridge to Aurora Avenue and on the east side of Washington Street from Chicago Avenue to the bridge is required. The additional right-of-way is necessary to relocate the sidewalks making room for the additional turn lanes. Property owners will be compensated for land which is acquired.

Will any utility work be done as part of the project?
River crossings are very vital to utilities like water, sewage, electric, communication and natural gas. All these utilities will be included in the planning for this project. It is anticipated that most utilities will be improved during this project. Each utility provider will work with their customers as part of the project.