The new $4.4 million Manito Road bridge is now open for service, according to the Tazewell County Highway Department.
The county-hired crew is doing final cleanup jobs — removing barricades and equipment and placing raised reflectors on the center line of the bridge. That is commonly done with traffic rolling, County Highway Commission Craig Fink said Friday.
The bridge was closed for replacement on Nov. 1, 2016, and was expected to take two years to complete, said Fink. It is "highly uncommon" to get a bridge project like this done this quickly, said Fink. The quick turnaround can be attributed to two main factors, he said.
“Number one, the weather allowed construction all winter," said Fink. "That’s historical. I don’t know in my career that there has ever been that mild of a winter. And number two, you have a contractor who constantly kept all of the resources in place, all of the equipment in place to get done what needed done that day.”
The project was completed just in time for the harvest season.
“I’m hoping that this will be very pleasing to (the farmers) and a pleasant surprise for them,” said Fink.
The bridge spans the Mackinaw River on County Highway 16. The new bridge is 36 feet wide. The old bridge was only 28.
The process for federal funding for the project started 10 years ago. The Manito Road bridge project was funded by the Illinois Major Bridge Program, a federal program that Illinois administers.
Fink said that in the past few years two major bridge projects were completed, the Manito Road bridge and the Towerline Road bridge. The county had to save some money to do those projects and smaller projects were delayed to do so. The county will now start on smaller bridges.
Lack of federal and state funding is still hampering major projects.
“We’re just not investing in transportation at the minimum level we need to be to replace structures and roads as they become needy,” said Fink.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin