River Road Bridge Tied to Dam's Fate

Army Corps of Engineers consultant to decide whether dam must be removed before repairs can start on bridge.

Yorkville motorists eager to shorten their drives to Plano and other western communities won't have the River Road bridge over Blackberry Creek as an option for several more weeks, at least.

 May 31 after state officials discovered evidence of a growing gap in its western abutment. Instead of risking the safety of motorists, the state ordered Yorkville to close the bridge until it either can be repaired or replaced.

No one knows when the bridge will reopen. The biggest hurdle? An old dam that shares the same deteriorating western abutment.

Illinois State Rep. Kay Hatcher met Tuesday with representatives from the city of Yorkville, Kendall County, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Officials from the corps are studying the dam to determine if they must remove it before any repair work can take place on the bridge.

Joe Wywrot, city engineer for Yorkville, said the corps is expected to rule on this within 30 days. If the dam does have to go, the city will have to wait for the Army Corps of Engineers to receive the funding it needs for the work. Unfortunately, that funding is not yet in place.

Because of this, there is no way to estimate how long the bridge will remain closed, Wywrot said.

"A project like this is not a typical project," Wywrot said. "It is unique. We have a lot of good people involved at the state and county levels. The right people are in place to work through this issue."

Wywrot doesn't know yet what it will cost to repair or replace the bridge. The final figure depends on whether the dam sharing the abutment has to be removed or can be left in place.

Regardless of the dam's fate, one thing is certain: Yorkville motorists will be inconvenienced. When the city of Yorkville last counted in 2008, 4,500 vehicles drove over the River Road bridge on a daily basis.

Chris Funkhouser, an alderman for Yorkville's Ward 3, said that he is pleased, so far, with the city's response.

"The response time to get the bridge closed after the state declared it unsafe was great," Funkhouser said. "I've been very pleased with the cooperation we've had with the highway department and the county."

Like others, Funkhouser is eager to hear definitive answers as to how long the bridge will remain closed and how expensive it will be to either repair  or rebuild the structure. Until these answers come, however, motorists will have to be patient, he said.

"Some residents would really like to see the dam stay," Funkhouser said. "But most of them understand, too, that if it's not possible, or if would simply cost too much to keep it, then it will have to go. If we had to take it out, they'd understand."

M Keane June 10, 2011 at 04:41 AM
I like the pond but tend to agree with the concept that the dam be removed because it has been proven that free flowing waters are better for the overall environment health of the waterway. There were many that called for the removal of the Fox River dam but it was not done. I am interested to learn what the Army Corp of Engineers has to say about the various options.
Dock Ellis June 10, 2011 at 01:16 PM
I may just be an old coot, but common sense tells me we can't afford to hold on to old things because of some sentimental reasons. I didn't agree on keeping the old jail and I don't agree on keeping this old dam. Get it out!
YorkVillain June 10, 2011 at 07:46 PM
The Blackberry Creek Dam has about as much value to Yorkville, Kendall County and the State of Illinois as an 8 track tape deck. Devoting resources to investigate keeping it would be a classic example of all that is hypocritical and backwards here. I’ll explain, let’s not spend money on new things that have the potential to add value to our community like the bike trails, or things that we already possess that need repair like the city streets, but instead let’s devote what limited resources we have to investigate the value or necessity of an obsolete old dam. If you feel the need to enshrine it for its historic value, take a picture.
The Fighting Fox June 11, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Most of the folks that had any attachment the mill pond have moved on in one way or another and the newcomers to this place have for the most part made it clear that they really have no use for our history. Even the people that have called Yorkville home for generations don’t really care, they don’t run for office, half of the City Council moved here during the housing boom, just let the mill pond fade away with dignity like a fond memory from our youth. Change is inevitable. We need to show our maturity and accept it with grace.
YorkVillain June 12, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Even with my vast experience as an internet critic I can’t take myself seriously enough to even suggest that I can engineer a bridge or come up with cost estimates, so please forgive me for not entertaining the concept. But I will say that we I don’t think we could afford to put a bike lane in on the bridge if you wanted to have a fish ladder because that would probably eat up all of the “free grant money” left over after it was wasted on another study.


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