Pedestrian bridge set to reopen this month
Lake Bluff 10/29/12 Mary Francoeur and her dog, Jester stand in front of the Gurney Avenue bridge in Lake Bluff which has been not accessible since June due to a discovery by Village engineer George Russell who found rust on the structure’s supportive steel pieces under the bridge. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:04AM
LAKE BLUFF — Mary Francoeur is ready to get her bridge back.
Although the bridge is not her personal property, Francoeur was accustomed to having access to the nearby Gurney Avenue bridge when she went on walks every day with her dog. Not having access to the bridge since June has taken away a route for walkers on the east side of town, she noted.
“I’m eager to have the bridge repairs happen,” said Francoeur, a 52-year resident of Lake Bluff. “I would like to get to use the bridge before winter.”
Francoeur should get her wish. Structural repairs to the bridge should be completed by mid-November.
Village Engineer George Russell said that during a routine inspection in early June, he found “some pretty aggressive rust on the structure’s steel pieces,” which provide support under the bridge. “It was at that time that we decided to close the bridge.”
The anticipated weeklong project has been pushed back until early November because of delays in the shipment of needed supplies and time for Russell, a “one-man department,” to map out a repair solution. Russell also was out for a month after back surgery.
Russell said the bridge supports, made with thinner steel than other area bridges, were more susceptible to corrosion.
“Normally (bridge supports) last longer than this,” Russell said.
The repairs will cost the village $50,720 and be performed by Contech Bridge Solutions and Midwestern Construction.
Russell said the Glen Avenue and Moffett Road bridges being in close proximity hasn’t made the Gurney closing a huge imposition for residents, but he noted there is still much interest in the repair work. He estimated that 200 people — between children going to and from school and walkers on their routes — use the bridge on a daily basis.
“In nice weather, regardless of the season, people are out walking” and using the Gurney Avenue footbridge, Russell said.
Town historian Janet Nelson said the Gurney Avenue bridge serves as a connector for the community.
“Lake Bluff has worked hard to maintain the character of a small town,” Nelson said. “It is a walk-able town; the bridges help out with that. People enjoy the ravines and use the bridges as shortcuts to get to streets.
“It’s a friendly village. The bridges add to its character.”
Francoeur said that area residents advocated for the Gurney Avenue Bridge for years. She said area residents got things moving by calling for the bridge project through a float in the town’s 1985 Fourth of July parade.
Residents’ contributions — including a major donation from Elmer and Doris Vliet (Elmer served as chairman of Abbott Laboratories and as town historian) — helped make the bridge a reality in 1986, Francoeur said. She noted resident Dick Worthen donated time and equipment to get the bridge built.