HOBART — There's no doubt Mayor Brian Snedecor believes the Third Street bridge replacement is massively significant to the city.
“This is a monumental step,” Snedecor said as officials celebrated the start of the project on Monday.
Standing near the bridge over Lake George, Snedecor recalled the severe flooding from September of 2008.
The Third Street bridge was under water at that time. The flooding had become so bad then that water was reaching businesses in the city's downtown area.
Snedecor said that's when the ideas began to emerge for a new bridge that would address the water restriction issues there.
After years of planning, groundbreaking took place Monday for the more than $6 million Third Street bridge replacement project.
Snedecor said 30 percent of the water in Lake County travels through Lake George and it's been common to see flooding in Hobart's downtown area during large rain events.
City Engineer Phil Gralik said the new bridge will improve the flow of water and reduce flood elevations.
Flooding that closed Wisconsin Street last week wouldn't have happened had the new structure already been in place, Gralik said.
Bob Fulton, president of Hobart's Sanitary/Stormwater District Board, said the new structure will be “the most beautiful bridge in Lake County.” It will incorporate brick and limestone and have features that will be consistent with the city's downtown area.
The 8-feet of clearance that will be created under the bridge will allow watercraft to travel beneath it.
Redevelopment Commission President Carla Houck said she is a boat owner, and she's looking forward to the opportunities to access more areas of Lake George by watercraft.
Gralik said the design of the new structure was “well thought out,” and the project includes the creation of a trail under the bridge.
A stretch of Third Street between East Park Avenue and Main Street has been closed to traffic since last week. Fulton said the closure is expected to remain in place until September of 2020.
Although the road will reopen at that time, there will be ongoing work associated with the project, including landscaping.
As work gets underway, Snedecor said planning for the new bridge was “purely a team approach.”
Hobart's Redevelopment Commission, Sanitary/Stormwater District Board, City Council and Board of Public Works and Safety were involved in the process. The city collaborated with Lake County from the early stages of the project, Snedecor said. The Lake County Board of Commissioners is contributing $1 million to the initiative.
Lake County Commissioner Kyle Allen said the project has been “a long time coming,” and the inconveniences motorists will experience will be “well worth it” when the replacement is finished.