Ardmore Roderick’s President & CEO, Rashod R. Johnson, PE, MBA appeared on CBS Chicago to share his thoughts on recent infrastructure investments and the impact those funds will have on Chicago area bridges. Mr. Johnson serves as Chair of Planning & Design for Illinois Road & Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA) Board of Directors. You may view the full interview below.
CHICAGO (CBS) – About $144 million will go to fix four bridges over the Calumet River, but that’s just the beginning of what’s needed.
CBS 2’s Sara Machi found out Illinois ranks third in the nation for the number of deficient bridges it has.
Standing alongside the 95th Street bridge on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris made a bold claim.
“For years people talked about this problem, but now I am proud to say we will finally fix this problem,” Harris said.
But is that true?
Rashod Johnson, a structural engineer said this funding is a long time coming after decades of disinvestment in Illinois infrastructure.
“Finally because of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, as well as Rebuild Illinois, Illinois has money,” Johnson said. “Chicago has money, that we are getting ready to get that he’s gonna have enough money for us to be able to find the complete reconstruction of a lot of these structurally deficient bridges in the area.”
Johnson works with the Illinois Road and Transportation Builder’s Association which compiles and tracks federal bridge data.
“Typically, there’s been only enough money for maintenance,” he said. “Maintenance is fine, but when you have 50 and 60-year-old bridges, at some point, they need to be rebuilt.”
We looked at the data too, and found the U.S. Federal Highway Administration tracks 598 bridges in Chicago.
148 are in good condition.
356 are in fair condition.
94 are in poor condition.
That means that 16% of Chicago’s bridges are rated poor, or structurally deficient, and any delays in repairs or renovations only cost more down the road.
“95% of the structurally deficient bridges that were structurally deficient in 2017 are also on the list for 2022 and the price has gone up about 40%,” Johnson said.
But Johnson does have a word of caution: deficient does not always mean dangerous. The most highly-trafficked “deficient bridges in Illinois” is a section of the Dan Ryan, just south of Chinatown with more than 200,000 people crossing every day. Johnson said drivers should think of it like a grade where a “C” or below is deficient, and “F” is for failing.
“That aspect of it, it is not something that we have to replace immediately, but we might have to restrict loads on certain bridges that we might not have restricted loads on before. That’s because it’s structurally deficient,” Johnson said.
The Calumet River bridges have been load-restricted. When they’re restored, Johnson said they’ll be open for more.
“More freight, more goods, more Amazon, more deliveries, more everything,” he said.
First published on January 4, 2023 / 5:35 PM CBSChicago