Truss failure closes Libertyville’s Rockland Road bridge

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

The aging and deterioration of the decorative truss system has forced the closure of Libertyville’s Rockland Road Bridge. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

Decorative trusses that show signs of deterioration above the nearly 100-year-old Rockland Road Bridge in Libertyville was closed by the municipality on the recommendation of a report submitted by the Illinois Department of Transportation. While the roadbed and bridge itself are structurally sound, the iconic green girders were deemed unsafe, with their removal and work tentatively slated for March 31.

Closed and barricaded since Feb. 1, the span goes over the banks of the Des Plaines River. Originally erected in 1921, the truss system was dismantled from a downstate bridge over the Kaskaskia River and brought to Libertyville in 1962. It was renovated in 1989. The bridge serves as a connector for Rockland Road with the arterial thoroughfares of St. Mary’s Road and Route 21 (Milwaukee Avenue), at its east and west. The trusses and side walkway are representative of utilitarian bridge structures of the time period.

“We went to bid-letting Feb. 13 to remove the steel trusses, but IDOT requested that we hold off on the process,” said Village Manager Chris Clark. “The IDOT study was delivered to the village at the start of this month, it’s an annual report. The truss system on the bridge is decorative, and while the roadbed itself is safe, the deterioration was made known to our village board.

“IDOT’s request was made to allow them time for completing an environmental study and also contact the State Historical Preservation Office, which isn’t connected with IDOT, to look at the files and see if there are any designations for the bridge,” he said. “It’ll take them about 30 days, and we’re tentatively looking at four to six weeks before the bridge is open again. Truss removal will take two weeks, and the state will need two weeks for paperwork.”

The bridge’s south walkway shows deterioration, as barricades have blocked pedestrian access. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

Clark said bridges are inspected on a yearly basis, and in the case of the Rockland Road Bridge, the consultant completing the canvass found evidence of deterioration, which the village had not recognized. A statement from the village noted, “The steel truss portion is not integral to the structural stability of the bridge and is predominantly decorative. Therefore, it is anticipated that the bridge will be reopened upon completion of the truss removal.”

The truss removal has been estimated to cost $53,800. Funding for the outlay will be equally shared between the Village of Libertyville and Libertyville Township, due to their respective boundary jurisdictions.

“I’m not aware of any other additional costs but we want to make sure this is all completed within the compliance guidelines,” said Clark. “We are in line for federal funding in two years that will allow us to completely replace the bridge, and we don’t want to jeopardize that opportunity. The funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration, IDOT, and the local stakeholders. It has a history, but our main concern is getting the work done.”                               

The truss system measures 150-feet long, 25-feet high and 36-feet wide. Its appearance with the girders and side walkway are representative of utilitarian bridge structures of the 1920s.

At the southwest foot of the bridge, a legend rock carries the inscription of the site being used by Native American tribes for medicinal bathing. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

An inscription on a boulder at the bridge’s southwest footing identifies the site as “Medicine Springs.” Placed there by the Cub Scout Pack 273, it marks the location on the Des Plaines River where Native American tribes of the Sauk and Fox nations bathed in sulfur pools that leeched into the river waters.

Other historic plaques affixed to the bridge were removed to facilitate remedial work and offer protection. They are currently in storage through the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society and will be replaced when work is completed.

Until the Rockland Road Bridge work is completed, vehicle traffic is being detoured to Route 176, as a thoroughfare.


Truss failure closes Libertyville’s Rockland Road bridge–