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Downer bridges on schedule  to let traffic roll in November

Crews continue work Downer Bridges Tuesday October 9 2012 downtown Aurora.  | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Crews continue work on the Downer Bridges on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 in downtown Aurora. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 11, 2012 6:12AM

AURORA — The downtown Downer Place bridges, which have been closed since February, are on scheduled to reopen to traffic in November, city officials confirmed this week.

City spokesman Kevin Stahr said the bridge project will be substantially completed by the middle or end of November.

“The contractor and the city expect the bridges to be open to traffic come November,” Stahr said.

While all of the project’s hard-surface streetscape will be in by the November date, Stahr said some other “punchlist” items — including a railing finish and planting — will be completed in spring.

The city’s goal is to have both Downer Place and Benton Street designated as two-way streets when the bridges reopen to traffic next month, he said. The two streets have been one-way through downtown for decades.

“If we are in a position where the bridge project is ahead of the two-way street conversion, the city may look at other traffic patterns and then convert both Downer and Benton as soon as practical,” Stahr said.

Construction crews have poured all the piers and abutments for the bridges and all the interior deck beams have been set on both Downer Place bridges.

All of the substructure fascia panels have been installed and the closure pours are about 60 percent complete.

This week, crews will also install arched fascia pieces on the west bridge. After that is completed, outer deck beams will be set on the bridge.

“We’re asking motorists and pedestrians in the area to proceed with caution as lots of construction crews are out and (using) heavy machinery,” Stahr said.

In August, crews began replacing the sidewalks, curbs and gutters between the two Downer Place bridges.

Landscaped areas, rain gardens, wider sidewalks and shorter, pedestrian-friendly brick crosswalks will be installed along the downtown street.

Crews will construct rain gardens on the two south side corners of the Downer Place and Stolp Avenue intersection. The rain gardens will remove pollutants from storm water by filtering the runoff through native plantings and engineered soils before finding its way into the Fox River, city officials said. The project is being paid in part with a $70,000 Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant Program sponsored by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The bridge replacement project began in February — and at that time city officials said the work would be mainly done by November. The bridges, completed in 1909, were deemed structurally deficient by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Stahr said the city will likely host a ceremony in spring to commemorate the reopening of the bridges.

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