A suburban covered bridge hit 17 times in a year

Since a covered bridge in Long Grove reopened last August, truck drivers have hit the top of the bridge – with a clearance of 8’6″ – 17 times.

“We have made so many attempts to make the signs more visible, and it just keeps happening.” said Trustee Jennifer Michaud. “I live very close to the downtown, and I always know when the bridge is hit, because I see the helicopters come in. And I’m just, ‘Oh, another one.'”…

“People look at their phones and their phone tells them to go this way, and Google doesn’t know that they are driving a truck,” she said…

One option is an overhead detection system that would sense when a truck of a certain height approached the bridge and send a warning signal to the driver. Such a system would have recurring costs, including maintenance.

Another option could be to prohibit truck traffic.

This seems like a clash of transportation eras. The covered bridge is from an older era and this is part of its current appeal. The bridge invokes tradition and likely brings in curious visitors. The bridge is part of the local character. Here is how the Historic Downtown Long Grove puts it:

As one of the last iron trusses in The Chicago area, the single-lane Covered Bridge is so iconic, it’s quite literally become Long Grove’s emblem.   For over 100 years, the bridge has stood as the symbol of this crossroads town, one of the first in the country to pass a Historic Landmark Ordinance (in 1962) so that new construction need conform to its unique and charming style.  The Covered Bridge has transcended its historical role as a functional necessity and a tourist attraction into something of far greater significance – the Queen and Protector of this special place we call Long Grove just 35 miles NW of Chicago.

As the gateway to the historic downtown, the Covered Bridge is where Long Grove’s quaintness begins and ends.  Not only does the single-lane bridge buffer the town from being a major thoroughfare to Route 53, but there’s also something enchanting about waiting at a stop sign while the car opposite of you slowly passes over the bridge before your turn.

To paraphrase one resident: “I love how you need to stop, which suggests for you to relax, and prepare to step back in time to a less hectic world.  As you ease across the bridge, the sound and feel of the bricks and timbers under you add another reminder that you’re entering a special place.”

At the same time, today’s vehicles are bigger and technology steers drivers down particular roads to get them from Point A to Point B. No community today would choose to build such a small bridge today. Can everyone get what they want in such a situation?

This reminds me of driving through tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where they are clear signs prohibiting trucks carrying certain materials. Presumably, there is some sort of enforcement system. An overhead sensor could work. So could posting someone on each side of the bridge who can watch traffic and stop vehicles that are too tall.

This is not just a problem for this covered bridge. This can happen at drive-thrus, gas stations, parking garages, and other places with limited heights. If someone asked me how tall my vehicle is, I could guess but I would not know for sure. And if I was driving a different vehicle than normal, like a moving truck or a tall pickup, I might not even think about it.

Chicago suburb of Long Grove wants to privatize almost half of its public roads

Maintaining roads is expensive and the Chicago suburb of Long Grove has a potential solution: privatize a lot of its public roads.

Facing an annual funding gap of more than $1 million, Long Grove trustees have twice in recent months affirmed a plan that could privatize nearly half of the village’s public roads — transferring the cost of upkeep and plowing to the residents in the process…

Experts in public planning and municipal finance agree that Long Grove has hit upon an unusual potential solution to a commonplace problem. They say other communities also struggling to make ends meet could follow suit as aging roads deteriorate and revenue streams dry up. Yet such plans could eat away at the public’s trust in local leadership even as they mitigate public deficits, warned Joseph Schwieterman, a DePaul University transportation professor.

“It’s going to create resentment that city hall has broken its contract to fix the roads, and that could lead to turmoil that tears at the social capital of a community,” he said.

What has surprised some in and around well-to-do Long Grove is that the community — with its spacious home lots, ample green space and refined, rural character — finds itself in the situation at all. Recent census figures count it among the wealthiest villages in the Chicago area based on median income. Yet having more affluent residents doesn’t necessarily equate to a strong tax base, especially in towns that have little or no industry…

Local leaders first realized in the 1970s that to pay for maintaining roads without a property tax, something had to give, said Long Grove Village Manager David Lothspeich. After that, the board allowed public streets in new subdivisions only if they were main roads, and eventually entire subdivisions sprang up without a single public road, he said.

It sounds like a set of trade-offs: the community has a particular image and character involving big lots, nice homes, and no property taxes but to help maintain that character means limited commercial development. However, having less commercial or industrial development means fewer sources of property and sales taxes that can be used to maintain the community’s infrastructure. The money has to come from somewhere…

However the money is raised in the future for roads, it will be interesting to see how this affects the community’s character and image. Will people move away? Will it be as attractive?

Another suburb dealing with a similar issue is Winfield. The village has had difficulty paying for road maintenance and the debate in recent years has been whether to allow commercial development along the Roosevelt Road corridor that passes through the southern part of the community but it currently limited to larger lots.