All around Illinois there have been road upgrades, and the country roads are not an exception. Along with wear on the highways, several country thoroughfares also have been used way beyond their expected use life. With farm machinery getting larger and heavier, the old bridges and culverts are hard pressed to keep up.
This past summer and fall, the county line road between Sangamon and Montgomery County, IL, underwent a bridge replacement near fifth road. This stretch of road is approximately 2 mi. east of Interstate 55 between the Fannersville and Divernon exits, located in the central part of the state.
The one-lane bridge that stands above Horse Creek was built decades ago. The bridge was comprised of wooden planks as the base, and large iron bars in a criss-cross pattern serving as the rails. The section of road, just to the east of the bridge was narrow with a deep embankment. Besides being the location of many a late night accident, the bridge also was not wide enough for most farm implements, causing farmers to have to travel miles out of their way to reach their fields.
One of the first things local residents noticed was that Rural Electric Cooperative moved the power lines in an effort to ease work on the bridge. Lineman literally moved the poles and pushed the wires away from the construction site because of the narrow access for machinery.
Before construction work could begin, the old bridge had to come down. Digging from the side, the bridge was taken apart, scoop by scoop. Slowly, the construction crew completed demolition of the existing bridge.
Following demolition was excavating work. Hamlin Excavating, of Nokomis, IL, provided some of the early dirt work and earth excavating. Hamlin was working as a subcontractor on the project. “I widened and stabilized ditches putting slopes and approaches to the bridge on both sides,” said Lester Hamlin of Hamlin Excavating.
Often just a lone worker would be moving dirt working from dawn until dusk on the closed roadway. Wooden forms were built to support the bridge and rocks were hauled to serve as a base. Traffic was diverted from summer to late fall on the busy county highway road.
The county highway departments soon had the bridge replaced and the eastern approach widened as well. The bridge is now a two-lane road that better serves the rural community and commuters across Interstate 55 as they travel from east to west or in the opposing direction.