Orange cones and traffic delays are becoming an expectation instead of a rare event on the I-74 bridge, and work starting on Monday will only add to driver frustration.
Traffic moving quickly over the bridge will soon be a thing of the past. They're repairing an area just south of the 7th Avenue interchange on the Illinois side up to where the bridge starts over the Mississippi River. Crews will fix the bridge deck, the structural steel and re-surface that entire area.
While they're at work, drivers will only get to use one lane in both directions.
"There's no way around it. People still have to cross the river. It's the major thoroughfare through the cities and obviously we're in need of a new structure," Illinois DOT resident engineer Keith Gengler said.
However, that new bridge is still years down the road.
A state-of-the-art alert system will be in place to keep drivers informed about how things look up ahead. The series of sensors and signs is being used for the first time, attempting to slow down traffic before the construction site to keep accidents to a minimum.
"We'll see how this will work and hopefully implement some of this traffic management when we do the new I-74 bridge," Gengler said.
Driving through the traffic and seeing the orange cones are becoming the norm on the I-74 bridge, but the work coming up next week is just the start of many things to come.
Until the new bridge is open, repairs and delays will need to be expected every year. Gengler compares the work done now to upkeep on a car. They're doing enough each year to keep it up and running.
"Things happen. You don't want to invest too much money into the structure and then tear it down in the next five years. We want people to be safe," Gengler said.
The project is expected to last from this coming Monday through mid-August.