Cedar Street Bridge
The Cedar Street Bridge is a four lane vehicle bridge that carries both Illinois Route 8 and Illinois Route 116 over the Illinois River. The bridge is a steel arch design that rises approximately 70 to 80 feet above the surface of the river. The name of the bridge comes from the original name of its street on the Peoria side of the river; the street itself is now called MacArthur Highway, while the bridge is still referred to as Cedar Street. Work was started on this bridge in 1929 as a joint project between the City of Peoria and the Village of East Peoria. It was constructed by Kelly-Atkinson Construction Company of Chicago, Illinois and designed by Strauss Bascule Bridge Company (Strauss Engineering Company) of Chicago, Illinois. Due to the Great Depression, funds ran out and East Peoria did not have money to finish the approach on its end of the bridge. The State of Illinois eventually stepped in and finished the bridge approach in 1933 making it the oldest bridge spanning the Illinois River in the East Peoria area. Prior to being completed, the bridge was sarcastically billed as the bridge to nowhere or the longest bridge in the world (this was because it had no end). Despite being a healthy sized bridge, it was far from the longest. The bridge has a total length of thirty-seven hundred fifty feet with a main span of two hundred ninety six feet. Just after it opened, the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded this bridge the Award of Merit, the prize of being the most beautiful deck truss bridge in the United States for that year.
Roosevelt Street was extended to curve into the bridge approach and renamed Cedar Street. The intersection of Roosevelt Street and West Washington Street was altered to make a seamless connection to Four Corners. Another interesting note was that traffic signals were operated manually at each end of the bridge to accommodate end-of-shift traffic from the nearby Caterpillar Inc. facilities. A tall tower similar to those used in railroad switch yards was located at a corner of Adams Street in Peoria and gave the operator an improved sight line for controlling the traffic. This operation was discontinued in the early 1960s when an elevated and divided four-lane connection was constructed between the east end of the bridge and South Main Street. This connection helped reduce the volume of traffic through Four Corners by allowing Caterpillar workers heading south-bound on Route 29 traffic to bypass the intersection.
A bridge was not the first means of crossing the Illinois River at this location. Abner Eads arrived at Fort Clark, now Peoria, 15 April 1819 and his brother William came the following year. H. W. Wells in his 1900 book Schools and the Teachers of Early Peoria reported the following information related to him by James Eads, son of William Eads: “He (James Eads) says his father and uncle Abner started the first ferry in Peoria. He says they bought two pirogues or canoes, thirty or forty foot long, lashed them together and laid rails thereon, covering the same with straw, and that was the first ferry at Peoria.” Another ferry, whose principle purpose was to bring grain to what is now Peoria from the east side of the river was operated by George Sharp as early as 1821. He died in 1830 and his ferry discontinued. This ferry was operated near his home, approximately three-fourth mile below Bridge Street – From a story by R. Brooke Watson in 19 February, 1928 edition of Peoria Star.
Cedar Street bridge underwent a nine million, six hundred thousand dollar facelift that was completed in March of 1989 courtesy of the Federal Government. This was followed by a million dollar paint job that cost almost as much as the original bridge. The bridge is presently closed for two months as part of a nine million plus maintenance project. At an age of 83 years the Cedar Street Bridge has endured longer than any local Illinois River bridge.
Compiled September 2016 by Frank Borror