MONTICELLO — The bridge that connected walkers and bicyclists on both sides of the Sangamon River has reopened.
The walk/bike trail that connects Monticello with subdivisions to the west had been closed since a May 23 fire damaged the trestle/bridge. Six youths later told Piatt County sheriff's police they accidentally ignited the trestle with a stray mortar-style firework.
City crews and local contractor Marc Poling repaired the bridge in five weeks, at least three weeks ahead of schedule. Total cost including labor came in around $40,000, according to Monticello Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop. An early estimate had been as high as $75,000.
Allsop figured out how popular the trail was as soon as it closed.
"It was rare that a day went by that someone didn't ask about the trestle or bike path being reopened," he said. "It was used a lot before the damage and I assume that usage will pick up again."
The trail had been open just two years prior to the spring fire, but it had become a staple for people's exercise regimen as well as a green way of getting to the main portion of town.
Mild weather helped speed up the rebuild. In addition, a structural engineer confirmed that the structure supporting the bridge deck was still sound, despite being charred by the blaze.
The fire started when the firework caught brush underneath the trail on fire, which eventually spread to the wooden portions of the trestle.
City crews cleared that growth away, "and hopefully that will help leaves and other debris blow on through, and hopefully will keep debris from collecting there when the river floods," said Allsop.