St. Charles Route 64 Bridge Called 'Functionally Obsolete'

Part 2 of series: St. Charles' Main Street bridge is plenty safe structurally, but a national report hints that it might have more traffic than it can handle.

  • Part 2 in a series on the safety and status of bridges in Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles.

St. Charles' Main Street/Route 64 bridge over the Fox River is safe but “functionally obsolete,” according to a report by Transportation for America.

A functionally obsolete bridge is not unsafe in any way. In fact, the St. Charles Route 64 bridge earns comparatively high marks for safety: an 8 for its deck and superstructure, and a 7 for its substructure.

The Transportation for America report points out that "functinally obsolete" means the bridge “has older design features not built to current standards.” For example, the bridge might not be wide enough or high enough to accommodate state expectations for traffic volumes for vehicle weights and sizes.

Width likely is the issue on the Main Street bridge, where average traffic volumes of 36,100 vehicles per day make it well-known for rush-hour traffic congestion through downtown St. Charles. That's been compounded during the past couple of years during work on the reconstruction of Main Street/Route 64 on the city’s East Side, which has caused its own congestion.

The statitistics and ratings come from the Transportation for America report, featuring an interactive map that indicates the relative health of bridges across the United States. You can modify the scope of the map by typing in an address, which provides a map showing bridges within a 10-mile radius of the address. The structurally deficient bridges noted in red. 

Illinois ranks 35th among the 50 states, with 8.5 percent of its bridges ranked structurally deficient.

National attention to the issue of bridge safety was ignited in  2007 after the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota.

The report also cites what it calls a “transit funding crisis” that will become more acute over time. Of the nation’s 600,000 bridges, 383,060 will be more than 50 years old by 2030, the report states.

The report was mentioned in President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address, which proposed a "Fix It First" infrastructure-improvement effort.

The Fix We're In For national report includes a summary of the problem, recommendations that could help reduce the repair backlog, and the full battery of data, including the worst 100 counties and the two busiest structurally deficient bridges in each state.

The Transportation for America report also shows the relative health of bridges we cross every day in Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles. Patch will follow up with a third article regarding those bridges.



Tom Brown February 23, 2013 at 02:23 PM
The bridge is as wide as the street it serves. There are 3 new alternative bridges for rush hour traffic. Prairie St., Sterns Rd, and now Red Gate. If people use them, traffic will be much better in downtown St. Charles. This is a problem that doesn't need solving at the moment. The state is broke, or haven't you heard?
Derek February 23, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Last I checked, the government running the State of Illinois is "Functionally Obsolete".
MattG February 23, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Since this the second article about bridges, I wanted to weigh in as a civil engineer. "Functionally Obsolete" generally means very little about the actual condition of the bridge. If a bridge has more traffic volume than a typical bridge of it's size, then it is graded down as functionally obsolete. There may be a number of other criteria that lead it to be listed as functionally obsolete. In the case of the IL-64 bridge, it was rebuilt about a dozen years ago and it should be structurally sound for many, many years to come. You don't need a life-preserver in your car. "Structurally Deficient" means something entirely different. This means that there are reasons to worry about the viability of the bridge. However, most motorists probably have little to worry about. Generally, the first step in bridge evaluation is that the agency reduces the load limit on the bridge, say from 80,000 lbs down to say 20,000 pounds. If you are driving a 3,000 pound passenger vehicle you don't have that much to worry about. That said, we have a LOT of bridges and infrastructure that need attention. Note, these are generalities and I have not personally looked at any of these bridges and this shouldn't be viewed as a professional opinion.


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