By Bob Uphues
If Broadway Avenue is this year's big road construction headache in Brookfield, next year will bring another challenge when the Brookfield Avenue bridge over Salt Creek is replaced.
In the works since 2014, the plan is to remove the bridge's central piers, which date to 1916, and replace the deck, which dates to 1986, due to their poor condition. The new bridge will be a single-span concrete bridge with no central piers inhibiting water flow under it.
The bridge will include new safety features, including a wall that will separate vehicular traffic from pedestrians walking along the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge.
About 80 percent of the roughly $2.75 million project is being funded through a federal grant, with the village on the hook for about $550,000 of the cost.
However, that local match could go up a bit after village trustees recently decided to seek additional grant funding to include pedestrian lighting and to increase the width of the bridge to provide more room on the north side for pedestrians and a larger bump-out that will allow people to stop and enjoy the river view without impeding foot traffic.
Instead of the original plan, which would have kept the north sidewalk 5-feet wide, trustees agreed that they'd like the sidewalk to be 9-feet wide to eliminate possible bottlenecks created by people pushing strollers on busy days.
The bump-out overhanging the river would be 23-by-6 feet. Along with the wider sidewalk, the north side of the bridge would be big enough to accommodate about 80 people. The additional cost of widening the sidewalk and enlarging the bump-out is estimated at $140,000.
Two light poles, which would be placed on the north side of the bridge at either end, are estimated to add another $40,000 to the price tag. Trustees declined to consider adding LED lighting along the entire length of the north side of the bridge, since that would have added another $140,000 to the cost.
If the village wins additional grant money to pay for lighting and for widening the bridge, Brookfield would need to add about $36,000 to meet the 20 percent match required by the terms of the grant. Eighty percent of the additional cost, if the grant amount is increased, would be borne by the federal government.
But there's no guarantee the federal government will increase the grant, which leaves the issue of widening the bridge in doubt.
"If the grant isn't there, it's probably unlikely we're going to do [the widening] because of the cost," said Village President Kit Ketchmark in a phone interview.
During an initial discussion about taking on additional cost to widen the bridge deck in early July, the village board had decided against widening the bridge due to the additional cost.
But in the two weeks between that discussion and a subsequent one on July 22, trustees and in particular Ketchmark, who'd favored going with the original plan, had a change of heart.
Trustees Edward Cote and Nicole Gilhooley argued in favor of the wider sidewalk, saying with the new bridge likely to last decades the additional investment was worth it. The existing sidewalk is also 5-feet wide and pedestrians are often forced to go into the street to walk around others blocking the way. With a wall separating pedestrians from vehicles in the future, such a narrow sidewalk could be an impediment to foot traffic.
"We're looking at 75 years," said Cote. "I'd rather have a bigger sidewalk and more of a bump-out, not just for aesthetics but for ease of use."
Gilhooley argued that the bridge needed to be wider to handle larger numbers of people the village plans to attract to the area by staging more events and increasing density in the downtown area.
"For the crowds we expect to have by our increased special events and activities going on in town and increasing traffic there, we're not solving any problems," Gilhooley said. "By keeping it 5 feet, it's not adding any improvements there."
Gilhooley said the additional width was needed "for safety and also just to improve the flow. Right now it's very dangerous as it is."
The village board is going to have to make a decision one way or another soon. With construction slated to begin in spring 2020, the village needs to allow sufficient time to get an answer on increasing the grant and for the Illinois Department of Transportation to bid the work.
During construction, Brookfield Avenue will be closed between Forest Avenue and the entrance of the Brookfield Village Hall parking lot. The pedestrian bridge south of Brookfield Avenue over Salt Creek would remain open.