Pedestrian, cyclists may get more access after Bob Michel rehab

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 6:32 PM CST
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PEORIA (25News Now) - For those without cars, the Bob Michel bridge is one of the only ways to cross the Illinois River into Peoria.

On the western side of the bridge is the CityLink bus depot, and on the East Peoria side are several stores and restaurants. Pedestrians walk or ride back and forth throughout the day. The trek across is noisy, sometimes windy, and always mere feet away from cars rushing by.

Starting March 13, things will get much quieter temporarily as vehicular traffic stops and construction begins. Bob Michel will be getting $24.6 million in changes through the Rebuild Illinois project. On the list for the rehabilitation project: eliminating the raised sidewalks, shortening the shoulder, and creating a 14-foot wide pedestrian walkway, with a large concrete wall separating walkers and riders from traffic.

The Illinois Department of Transportation anticipates the bridge will be done by November 17.

“The Bob Michel bridge is evidence of one of those massive projects that come around every 40 years,” Bike Peoria President Brent Baker said. the group advocates for safer walkways for pedestrians and cyclists.

“It’s not only dangerous, it’s inconvenient in the sense that... it is the only pedestrian crossing across the river, " he continued. “Not only is it one of the most unsafe streetways in the city... it’s inconvenient for people who don’t have a car.”

The 8-month closure will bring along some inconvenience for drivers. They may face longer commute times as they take detours on the Cedar Street and Murray Baker bridges.

“Please understand what we’re trying to do is ultimately better for the Peoria and East Peoria community,” IDOT Construction Engineer Nick Volk said.

“Understand that you will probably have a little longer commute, a different commute, and plan accordingly for it,” Volk said. “We do have more river crossing in the Peoria area between Peoria and East Peoria than most communities have, so there are plenty of choices out there.”

Bike Peoria is hoping to add more walkways on other bridges to make it easier for residents without cars. A walkway is being added to the McClugage Bridge while it is under construction. Beyond making things easier for pedestrians, Baker hopes the additional access will encourage more people to choose biking and walking over taking their car.

Once you make people feel safe, it becomes so much easier to approach,” he said. “If there’s a hill or some slight grade change it doesn’t seem as overbearing or as scary if it feels safe to be there.”