By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
FLORENCE, Ill. -- The Florence bridge is back in business.
The bridge officially reopened to vehicles on Monday afternoon, but bridge tender Ernie Wright said some traffic had been using the bridge since Friday in the battle to fight the rising Illinois River.
"They were letting emergency trucks for sand and rock hauling for the levee go through. We were working them through as the painters worked," Wright said.
The bridge closed to vehicle traffic on June 28 due to structural issues found during a routine inspection. A support column on the bridge buckled, prompting concerns about structural stability and further damage.
The closing forced drivers to detour miles out of their way to cross the Illinois River between Pike and Scott counties. Since the barricades came down, Wright said the bridge has been busy with traffic and working well.
"We ran it up and down for painters, for tests, for electricians, but there's no river traffic," Wright said.
The bridge raises to allow barges to pass underneath, then lowers to allow vehicles to cross. While closed to vehicle traffic, the bridge was in the fully raised position to maintain barge traffic.
Illinois Department of Transportation officials had hoped to reopen the bridge by the end of the month.
IDOT worked with Modjeski and Masters, a consultant engineering company, on the bridge repair plans. IDOT awarded a $1.099 million contract to Midwest Foundation Corp. of Tremont in December for structural steel repair of the damaged tower, removal and replacement of the sheave wheels, trunnion axles, bearings and wire ropes. Two other contracts covered fabricating new wire cables to support the lift span and reconditioning replacement sheave wheels and fabricating new bearings.