Washington Street bridge renovation finalized


Jay Deegan

The DuPage River overflows onto the Naperville Riverwalk under the Washington Street bridge after heavy rains.

Jay Deegan, Editorial Editor

Washington Street bridge, a major thoroughfare in Downtown Naperville, is set to undergo a replacement project starting in 2023. The project is planned to be completed by the fall of 2024. 

The bridge’s foundation was constructed in 1928, and has been renovated twice in its near 100-year history. The project will cost Naperville taxpayers  just under $2 million.

The replacement project will have two major phases. The east side will be demolished and rebuilt first, with a goal to complete by the end of 2023. In 2024, the west side will be demolished with the goal of completing the project by Labor Day of 2024.

Multiple dedicated turn lanes will also be added at the Aurora Avenue intersection, as well as the Chicago Avenue intersection. The bridge itself will also be widened to five lanes.

“On the bridge, there will be two lanes in each direction, plus a turn lane for the length of the bridge,” said Bill Novack, Director of Transportation, Engineering and Development for the City of Naperville.

During the planning process, a goal was to start the construction of the bridge in 2020, but was delayed three years due to multiple factors.

“The biggest reason for the delay is land acquisition,” Novack said. “Design progressed pretty well, but the biggest thing we needed was either property, permanent easements, or temporary easements from six different property owners. We had to get all of the land acquisition approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation, then they had to approve the appraisals and the review appraisals. Once they approved all of that, we started negotiating with the property owners. And we were negotiating the last couple of years.”

In total, land acquisitions for the project costed over $1.1 million. The various land acquisitions were unanimously approved by the city council during their Sept. 6 meeting.

“No eminent domain was used during land acquisition,” Novack said. “We pride ourselves in working with the property owners, respecting their stuff and working to get to a solution that we all can live with.”

Washington Street passes over the underpass for the Naperville Riverwalk and currently has an eight foot clearance. The replacement of the bridge will raise the current Riverwalk by 1.1 feet, which is intended to lessen the flooding of the path while keeping the current clearance.

“I use it all the time, and the underpass is a little bit cramped and disgusting,” said a Naperville Central sophomore, Isaac Merz. “If they replace it, it will definitely be a better experience.”

The current bridge has multiple utilities, such as sewer, electric, a water main and AT&T telephone cables running along it. During the first phase of construction, they have to be relocated to the east end of construction. Small, but minimal outages are expected to occur in some cases.

“They are very important telephone lines, I mean, you do not want to disrupt those things,” Novack said. “We had a terrible time getting them to figure out how to relocate it but they’re going to go on the east side. There’s hundreds and hundreds of small copper wires inside there, and they’ve got to cut those over and that takes one to two months.”

In the 2017 traffic count, over 29 thousand cars crossed the bridge a day. But due to the deterioration and age of the bridge, the city has had to place a 15 ton weight limit on the bridge.

“It’s good that more people can go through,” Merz said. “Traffic in downtown is pretty bad, so it will definitely help it.”