The H. Wallace Caldwell Memorial Bridge – better known by area residents as the Swinging Bridge – will get a little TLC in a few months in the form of a new paint job and minor repairs.

The work is expected to take the 210-foot suspension bridge connecting Riverside and unincorporated Riverside Lawn offline for a time, said Riverside Township Supervisor Vera Wilt, who said the bridge’s closure to pedestrians and bicyclists “shouldn’t be too terribly long.”

On Jan. 12, the township board voted unanimously to hire Hoffman Estates-based API Architects to manage the project. The township worked with API Architects on a project to repair the elevator in the township hall last year. 

The firm’s fee of $7,600 to manage the bridge project was far below that proposed by the engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, which inspected and provided the township with a report last July assessing the bridge’s condition and recommending improvements.

API Architects soon will seek bids for the work, which Wilt said the township hoped to complete in late spring, when the weather allows. 

The township initially hired Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates to assess the bridge’s condition after heavy rains last May brought the level of the Des Plaines River close to the bottom of the bridge deck.

During that inspection, the firm noted that the structure of the bridge was in “good to satisfactory condition,” although there were minor repairs needed to the bridge towers’ masonry bases, hand railings and metal mesh panels.

The inspection also revealed, to the township board’s dismay, that the coating applied to the bridge in 2011 was in a state of “widespread failure.”

At that time, said Wilt, the township board had chosen a low bidder for the work – the township paid a total of about $25,000 – but the job left something to be desired.

“The last time it was painted, the paint simply didn’t hold,” Wilt said.

The July 2020 inspection report noted that coatings, if they’re applied properly should hold up for 25 to 30 years. The inspection revealed layers of older coatings beneath the 2011 paint job, indicating correct procedure had not been followed.

“The bridge likely did not have proper surface preparation for the last coating project,” the report concluded.

Wilt said the township board didn’t have a clear estimate at this time of what the 2021 work will end up costing. The township’s 2020-21 operating budget appropriated $41,000 for the project.

Because the township’s fiscal year ends March 31, most of the expense will be carried over into the new fiscal year. Wilt said the current budget estimate might be a bit optimistic.

“When we set the current budget, we had not yet had the engineering report done, and we based our budget on the last price paid,” Wilt said. “After reviewing the bids from 2010, and my engineering report discussions with WJE and API, I expect we will need to budget considerably more than we originally did in the 2021-22 budget.”

The Swinging Bridge was built in 1940 and named in memory of a late Cook County commissioner. It was rebuilt and rededicated in 2002.

Township hires new legal counsel

Riverside Township trustees on Jan. 12 also voted unanimously to hire the law firm of Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier and McGrath Ltd. as its legal counsel, after seeking qualifications and receiving proposals from eight firms last year.

The township board interviewed representatives from two firms, Odelson Sterk and Robbins Schwartz, at a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 5.

The township for the past several years had been represented by Matuszewich and Kelly LLP, but Wilt said the township was dissatisfied with the firm as the board navigated the 2020 elevator repair project, prompting the search for new counsel.

Odelson Sterk is well-known to Wilt, because that firm also represents the North Riverside Village Board, where Wilt previously served as a trustee. Attorney Michael Hayes, who is the firm’s principal counsel for the village, is also part of the team assigned to Riverside Township.

The firm will be paid on an hourly basis. The township budgets about $20,000 annually for legal services.