From the Office of Joliet Mayor O’Dekirk Regarding the DesPlaines River I-80 Bridge
Following the disclosure by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) that the latest inspection of the Interstate Highway 80 bridge spanning the DesPlaines River has serious structural weaknesses, I have instructed Joliet public safety officials to begin coordinating with the county, state and Federal FEMA officials to establish a specific plan of action in the event of a partial or complete failure of the bridge structure.
Neither the City of Joliet Public Works Department nor the Will County Highway Department has the jurisdiction over any state or Federal highways, bridges, tunnels or rail crossings, which are funded and operated by the IDOT and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Both the City of Joliet and Will County are prohibited by law from interfering in obstruction of interstate traffic or closing Interstate Highway 80 bridge. However, if neither IDOT nor the USDOT gives the City of Joliet a definitive plan for funding and repairing the structural deficiencies in the bridge documented by their own inspection teams in the near future, then I will be prepared to the order the following on an emergency basis:
1) Order the diversion of any vehicles seeking access to Interstate 80 entrance ramps which would lead to vehicles traveling over the bridge;
2) Post signs (4” by 8” or larger) on the Joliet streets near the entrance and exit ramps of I-80 which warn motorists of the potential danger involved in traveling over the I-80 bridge pending repairs;
3) Notify all Joliet residents by mail, text, email and Public Service Announcements on cable television and local radio of the current potential dangers and designated alternative routes of transportation designed to limit traffic congestion on main thoroughfares.
Efforts to secure long term funding for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the aging Interstate Highway 80 bridge have been ongoing with IDOT and USDOT as well as the state and Federal legislators who appropriate funding to these agencies for specific projects. The I-80 bridge is not the only transportation infrastructure repair urgently needed in the Joliet/Will County area, but it has now become an emergency for which emergency funds can be allocated by the IDOT and USDOT.
I have contacted the offices of Governor Pritzker, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Congressman Dan Lipinski – one of the ranking members of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, and other members of the state and Federal delegations representing Will County, to speak to them about coordinating their efforts to identify and appropriate emergency funding for the immediate repair and expedited replacement of the Interstate Highway 80 bridge.
In the last four years, I have personally emphasized the need for increased transportation maintenance, rehabilitation and new construction of state and Federal highways with both lawmakers controlling these funds and the transportation agency officials responsible for maintenance and construction. I have attended private meetings, public forums, Town Hall meetings and agency hearings to make our needs known. There has been much discussion, but very little commitment for adequate funding, which has resulted in the current state of affairs that city and county officials are now forced to divert time, money and resources to plan for the protection of Joliet residents, interstate travelers and local and interstate commerce.
Mayor, City of Joliet