What to do with a HB: Millbrook Truss Bridge in Kendall County, Illinois

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Once scheduled for demolition, the contract is rescinded. Now discussion about its future is back on the table.

MILLBROOK, ILLINOIS- One will see the structure upon crossing the Fox River.A three-span Pratt through truss bridge with a total length of 500 feet. The bridge is 123 years old, although the largest of the two spans was relocated at around 1910. That span has riveted connections and Howe lattice portal and strut bracings. The two smaller spans, apparently original, have Town lattice portals, V-laced strut bracings and pinned connections. The bridge and the road both were bypassed in 1984 and since then, the structure has been used as a pedestrian and bike crossing. A beautiful accessory to the nearby forest.

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Still, the Kendall County Forest Preserve wants to see the bridge be removed. The reason? Failing limestone piers.

The forest preserve is cash-strapped for any funding to even fix the bridge. Even the money coughed up for removing the bridge was from scraping the bottom of the funding pot. When the contract was let to demolish the bridge in 2018, the amount was more than what was estimated- 476,000 to D-Construction instead of $200,000. The cost for rehabilitating the bridge: over one million Dollars. And this for repairing the bridge piers, the paint job and possible repairs.

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Theory and practice reveal that even repairing or replacing the piers alone is approximately 50% cheaper than removing the bridge alone. With the restoration work needed for the bridge, if one chooses the right firm, such as Workin Bridges, BACH or Mead and Hunt, the cost for the above-mentioned job is 20% cheaper. Even if trusses are dismantled and stored while funding is collected for rebuilding the piers, the cost would be much cheaper. The act to remove the bridge without a slight hint of possible restoration and incorporating it into a trail, let alone the possibility of seeking resources and grants is very short-sighted and thus should be reconsidered.

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Already the first attempt to form an intergovernmental partnership with the village of Millbrook failed to bear fruit. Still a larger attempt to include the county and state authorities, let alone private actors is needed to ensure any action with the bridge is carried out without emptying the pockets in the process. This also applies to removing the bridge which if done, pedestrians and cyclists would be forced to use the current crossing 100 yards away, which would increase the risk of accidents and fatalities, thus putting the liability onto the forest service and the county.

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At the present time, the contract with D-Construction has been rescinded for the purpose of the state attorney needing to examine it. Yet in the news release on February 4th, the Forest Commission is planning to vote on the proposed demolition of the bridge on February 18th. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 9:00am on the second floor of the County Office Building at 111 W. Fox St. in Yorkville. Furthermore, discussions on the attempts to save the bridge will also be included. Instead of proceeding with the project of simply wiping away a bridge that is loaded with history and is one of Millbrook’s prized treasures, one should look at other alternatives, including any partnership possibilities and contacting resources who can help with restoring the bridge. Even by dismantling and storing the bridge temporarily until funding found for the trail and restoring the bridge, it would be a starting point and one that the parties involve would be willing to take as the first step. What is important is that bridge can be saved and there are ways of doing that.

It’s just a matter of taking that first step, even as the clock runs out.

 

Note:

There’s a facebook page that is focused on saving the Millbrook Truss Bridge which you can join and follow the developments. Click on the link below and you’ll be directed to the site.

https://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheMillbrookBridge/

 

If the demolition was approved, the work wouldn’t start until earliest July of this year. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the developments involving this bridge.

 

BHC 10 years

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 77

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This week’s Pic of the week moves us up by five years to 2014. It was during our time in the US where we wanted to surprise my parents for Christmas but not before passing through Iowa and seeing some of the festivities there. Van Buren County was one of the places we stopped on our list. With the Des Moines and Fox Rivers slicing through, the county became an important place of commerce, with small villages being erected along the banks, each one having its own crossing.  This included the villages of Bentonsport, Pittsburg, Bonaparte, Kilbourn, Selma, Douds and Keosaqua along the Des Moines and Milton, where this bridge is located, on the Fox River.

The bridge was originally built in 1888 by James B. Diver of Keokuk, using the truss design that was fabricated by the Penn Bridge Company of Beaver Falls, PA, and designed by Horace Horton. Originally built over the Skunk River near present-day Black Bottoms, this span was relocated to its present location over the Fox River near Milton in 1930. It is unknown whether Diver, who had built numerous bridges along the Fox River as well as in parts of southern Iowa and northern Missouri, may have had anything to do with the relocation of the structure. Closed since 2010, the bridge is easily accessible from the west side, using Chestnut Avenue from IA State Hwy. 2.

When I was there in December, much of the foliage from the bridge had died off, thus making photographing the bridge much easier than expected. Vines growing on the bridge during the spring and summer cover much of the bridge, including its Town lattice portal bracings, thus making the structure a “vegetation-like” shelter used for fishing or just chilling out. However, missing decking on parts of the bridge makes for a dangerous trek onto the structure, regardless of what purpose. Mine was for taking pictures, which when looking at it, one can see the structure as a whole behind all the tree branches, resembling somewhat a spooky appearance.  When going to the bridge, it is advisable to take a couple friends with you, for it is in a remote location and appears a bit haunted.  It is unknown what the bridge would’ve looked like had we had a covering of snow on the ground. But nevertheless, the trek to the bridge was worth the stop.

You can see more photos of the bridge just by clicking here. It’s the same website where you can find more facts about the bridge.

 

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