Fox River bridge construction stalled over 2 years, residents frustrated

MILLINGTON, Ill. (WLS) -- People in the small Illinois town of Millington 60 miles south of Chicago are furious. Their bridge over the Fox River is closed for repairs, but that's not why they are upset.

Residents say it's been two years since the barricades went up and the actual repairs have yet to start.

With a population just shy of 700, Millington sits on the Fox River and is reliant on the bridge over the flowing water. Two years ago the bridge was closed after it was deemed unsafe because one of its limestone piers has settled.

The people of Millington say they understand why the bridge had to be closed, but don't understand is why it's been closed for so long.

"It just doesn't appear anything's getting done. We're in the same spot we were in in May 1st 2017," said Phil Haake who works in Millington.

"There is no sympathy anymore. The sympathy is gone," said Kirsten Lincoln. "Fix the bridge."

With the bridge out, business is down by half at the Last chance Saloon where Kirsten Lincoln is manager, and other small businesses are hurting as well.

Farmers must drive their big rigs further, school bus trips are longer using alternate bridges roughly six miles distant in either direction, and there are worries that emergency runs to the closest hospital would require go-arounds.

"We're out in this rural area anyway and for anything to take longer in an emergency would be devastating," said Millingotn resident Jodie Shields.

Kendall and LaSalle county officials said they share the frustration. They want the bridge fixed as soon as possible, but engineers say there isn't much they can do until the river goes down.

The Fox River has been flowing at levels higher than the most recent six year average. The contractor said they even built a causeway to the bridge base but it flooded.

But the locals say this is about more than high water. Because the project involves both Kendall and LaSalle counties, a state contract, local and federal money, it was slow out of the starting gate. Steel was late in arriving and when the river was low, windows for work were missed.

The feeling among many is that small town voices and a small town bridge carry little weight.

"I don't know if this would be the same case if this were a different bridge, a more important bridge. It just doesn't feel like it's important. I don't know," said Haake.

"We are little people but we're no less significant," Lincoln said.

The Fox River is dropping and the contractor is considering building causeways on both banks to expedite the work.

Target dates have come and gone before, but there is hope among engineers that the job can be completed this calendar year. Until then, the people of Millington must wait and drive around.
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