Construction workers and Illinois Department of Transportation officials are busy testing aging bridges on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. On Aug. 24, large chunks of concrete started falling from the 33rd Street bridge, narrowly missing vehicles passing underneath.
No one was injured in the event, although the tires on several cars blew out from the debris on the road.
“They were big boulders — like the size of basketballs,” witness Greg Anderson told WMAQ Channel 5 news. “It just all went under my car and busted all my tires.”
Over the past couple of months, falling concrete has become a serious problem in the Chicago area. Two weeks ago, a 2-pound piece of concrete fell off a bridge over Interstate 57 and crashed into the windshield of a passing car. Authorities have threatened to shut down Wrigley Field because of falling concrete. Large pieces of crumbling concrete have fallen from the stadium three times this summer. To catch the falling debris, crews have installed nets under the aging structure.
The Ryan Expressway is scheduled for a $430 million reconstruction, which was supposed to begin at the 33rd Street bridge this fall. But, due to funding problems, the project has been delayed.
According to the state transportation department, workers are using hammers to tap off loose concrete from the 43-year-old bridge. Some transportation officials originally suggested installing nets to catch additional debris, but Jim Stumpner, IDOT maintenance bureau chief, told the Chicago Sun-Times the sagging nets could be dangerous for tall trucks and vehicles.
Crews are currently inspecting other aging overpasses on the expressway. The bridge on 33rd Street underwent an inspection in June, but no problems were found.