CHICAGO (CBS) — The cracked Lake Shore Drive bridge does not meet certain federal requirements for new bridges, and the Federal Highway Administration considers it “functionally obsolete.” While that does not necessarily mean it’s unsafe, CDOT is now taking a closer look at other bridges like it.
State inspection reports show that sometime between 2011 and 2013 cracks started appearing along a northbound section of the Lake Shore Drive bridge.
The 33-year-old, 407-meter portion of the bridge had a sufficiency rating above the level that could qualify for federal funding to repair it.
“The actual joint actually bound up causing excessive movement,” said Mark Barkowski, Chair of the Illinois Road Builders Association.
But CBS 2 has learned that the bridge’s design is archaic.
“The city no longer builds the structures like this,” noted Barkowski who explained that expansion joints usually line up with the concrete girder underneath it.
While the Federal Highway Administration does not consider the design inherently unsafe, it can lead to priority status for replacement and rehabilitation.
Lake Shore Drive has been plagued with bridge deterioration issues over the years.
In 2017, three LSD bridges made the list of the top 25 structurally deficient bridges in Illinois. Also in 2017, inspection records show that the southbound section of this bridge actually had a significantly lower rating than the northbound part that cracked.
Before a fix in 2008, the Stevenson Bridge over Lake Shore Drive was considered less safe than the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis the year before killing 13 people.
“It’s about making sure that what happened in Minnesota doesn’t happen in Illinois,” said then-Governor Rod Blagojevich back in 2008.
That Minnesota bridge was also classified as “structurally obsolete” among other issues. Fortunately, the danger in this case was spotted in time. But Barkowski said it underscores the need to make funding for maintenance a priority.
“A reliable steady funding source of the state of Illinois is really what we need. People can plan for repairs instead of showing up for failures,” Barkowski said.
CDOT said that in response to this incident they are going to be completing spot checks of other similar bridge structures.