Making Way For the New Mile Long Bridge Beams

Deliveries have restarted to truck massive prestressed concrete beams from Wisconsin to the Mile Long Bridge construction site on the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294) – this time for construction of the new southbound bridge.

In 2020, 273 concrete beams made the 100-mile-long trip for construction of the northbound Mile Long Bridge structure and nearby ramps. Now, 250 additional concrete beams will be trucked in for the southbound structure in as the Tollway works to complete the $500 million project.

After crossing the state line, special 10-foot-wide, 14-axle heavy-load semi-trailers, can be seen slowly traveling eastbound on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and southbound on I-294 to the construction site along with their Illinois State Police District 15 escorts between 4 a.m. and noon on weekdays. 

Each of the concrete beams being transported weighs approximately 115 tons measure between 72 and 90 inches tall and between 111 and 187 feet long giving other drivers on the road quite a show. 

After arriving at the construction site, the trucks with the beams are parked along the bridge work zone, then giant cranes transfer the beams to new bridge piers. These initial bridge beams are being placed to build the new southbound Mile Long Bridge over the Des Plaines River and the Lawndale Avenue Solids Management Area owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District during daytime hours.

“This massive project is right on schedule, and as we continue to move bridge construction forward, we are working to ensure the roadway remains safe for both drivers and workers during construction, which is part of our overall commitment to safety,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez.

The Mile Long Bridge carries up to 150,000 vehicles daily over two major railroads, the Des Plaines River, the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal and the Illinois & Michigan Canal and local roads, and over several major distribution centers. The Illinois Tollway is reconstructing the bridge as part of the $4 billion Central Tri-State Tollway Project, reconstructing and widening 22 miles of roadway between Balmoral Avenue and 95th Street.

Bridge beam deliveries will continue into early 2022 for the new southbound Mile Long Bridge Project. In addition to the concrete beams, 165 steel beam segments also will be delivered from a fabrication site in Kentucky during the course of the project. The steel segments will be combined to form 52 steel beams that will be installed over the County Forest Preserve property and the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal. Each of the steel beam segments will measure between 86 and 120 inches tall and between 39 and 234 feet long.

The Mile Long Bridge Project includes building two, new side-by-side 4,800-foot-long bridge structures designed to last 100 years and increasing capacity to five lanes in each direction. The original bridge structures were built in 1958.

Construction of the new northbound structure was completed in 2020 and construction of the new southbound structure is scheduled to be complete in 2022. 

Both of the new bridges feature 27 spans supported by 26 piers, compared to the previous structures with 53 piers, reducing the impact on waterways, roadway and rail operations below. In addition, the bridges’ inside shoulders in both directions will be built to serve as Flex Lanes for transit, for emergency vehicles and as an alternate lane when warranted.

To learn more about the Mile Long Bridge Project and see views from real-time construction, check out the project webpage here.

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