Scott County residents got the first glimpse of the proposed new bridge at Florence. The new project is currently in the planning phase, with expected planning and design to be completed by next Fall. The estimated construction is expected to cost $80.5 million, which will include 1.1 miles of new roadway and a new bridge structure 300 feet south of the existing bridge. Several local officials showed up to view the project including Winchester Mayor Rex McIntire, 50th District State Senator Steve McClure, and 100th District Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer.
50th District Senator Steve McClure was on hand for the open house hearing and says that the new bridge has been needed for quite some time: “It’s a really big deal. It was one of my top priorities when we began to meet about capital projects. When this was in the Capital Bill and when I got the estimate from IDOT of what it was going to cost along with everything else, I was ecstatic about it. It’s a wonderful, historic bridge but it’s now time that we need to have a new one. I drive over that bridge a lot, and everybody who has been in the area has shown me that bridge or talked about it many times. It’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to it. They are looking to complete the project within the next 4-7 years. Hopefully they can get things working as quickly as possible. It’s also important to point out that the money is there for it. The money has been allocated.”
McClure says the new bridges in the area are a way to help the local economy: “It will make travel and transportation easier. It’s going to provide for good construction jobs while the bridge is being built. It’s just going to make the area look nicer. One thing that we’ve got in this part of the state is a lot of good roads, but some that are very poor. That is our main mode of transportation. When you have roads and bridges in some parts that are outdated, that look like they need replaced, perhaps they aren’t big enough – it’s a big deal to them done. We’ve got to encourage people to come here, and when our roads and bridges are much more beautiful and much safer, I think it’s a win for everybody. It’s a big deal and it will help draw people here.”
100th District Representative CD Davidsmeyer says that it will make travel easier for area farmers and commuters: “I think everybody will say how exciting it is to see something finally happening [with the bridge]. I would say in the last 10 years, I can probably count on one hand the number of years that the bridge wasn’t closed down at some point – being hit by a barge or repairs, something of that sort. It’s certainly exciting to see something new coming in. It’s not going to be as low of a bridge. It’s finally coming to public discussion and open to them so they can see the route that we are talking about. It’s long past due – and I think we got a lot of things in the state that are long past due; but this is exciting to see.”
The project requires about 48.6 acres of new construction and the new structure will effect habitats of local bat and bird species, as well as wetlands and some timberland areas. Illinois Department of Transportation engineers say that it will have no effects on local historical sites, archaeological digs, local residences, or nearby businesses.
Davidsmeyer says it’s always a challenge with a scope of this size not to disrupt some of the local environment: “I think one of the biggest things to overcome are any biological species that they have issues with, or burial grounds or something of that sort during construction. They are minimal in this case. I haven’t heard anyone come directly to me and ask me about specific things. From what IDOT is saying, they have been able to minimize any interruption to any of those things pretty well on this job, which they were excited about.”
The land acquisition, easement, and permitting phase of the project will begin shortly after planning is completed next fall. The bridge is expected to appear like the new Champ Clark Bridge in Pike County according to renderings of the project and IDOT Studies and Plans Engineer Jay Wavering. Anyone interested in the project may visit florencebridgestudy.com and leave comments for the record of the project until September 24th. For further questions, individuals should contact IDOT Studies and Plans Engineer Jay Wavering at 217-785-9046 or by email at Jay.Wavering@illinois.gov.