LOMBARD – For more than a year, Lombardians and visitors have watched the scenery along St. Charles Road, along Grace Street and along the Union Pacific Railroad change as three new bridges were erected over the major streets and railroad tracks. The new bridges allow people to use the Great Western Trail safely without crossing the streets and tracks.
The Village of Lombard celebrated the official opening of the bridges during a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday evening on the St. Charles Road bridge. The bridges informally opened to the public in mid-July.
"The bridges have been open to the public and are being used quite extensively," said Carl Goldsmith, director of the Public Works Department.
Ground broke on the project in March 2012, although the initial idea to develop the network of bridges came in October 2001, after the Board of Trustees formed a Trail Ad Hoc committee, said Goldsmith.
The Great Western Trail bridge project was almost 12 years in the making as village staff worked to design the structures and find a way to fund them, he said.
In all, the project cost about $5.5 million, and the village contributed $1 million, which came from funds from one of the village's tax increment financing districts. The rest of the project was paid for using federal funds, Goldsmith said.
Dozens of local residents attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, many of them on bikes, to celebrate the new bridges. Several local and regional elected officials were also at the event.
Village President Keith Giagnorio said the completed bridges represented years of cooperation between the Village of Lombard, other levels of government and community members. The three bridges, he said, have drastically changed the appearance of the village and will be used by people for many years.
Local bikers, joggers, walkers and trail supporters in Lombard and neighboring towns are also enthusiastic about the new bridges, said Don Kirchenberg, voluntary chairman for the Friends of the Great Western Trail, an advocacy group promoting the trail.
"They're ecstatic about it," he said. "They'll be able to use the trails more often. They'll be able to get to Lombard more often."
Kirchenberg said he credits the late Village President Bill Mueller for being instrumental in getting the project started.
"[President] Mueller was an incredibly hardworking, devoted public servant," he said. "He really was a primary reason for the bridges getting built. He understood the value that the trails bring to the community."