SOUTH ELGIN – Under a clear blue sky and among dozens of people bundled in scarves, gloves and hats, Kane County Board officials, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other dignitaries on Wednesday morning joined those who built the Stearns Road Bridge Corridor in a grand-opening ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"We are very proud of what we have accomplished," project worker Jeff Meagher said in a ceremony held indoors before the ribbon cutting.
More than 20 years in the making, the 4.6-mile bridge corridor connects Randall Road in eastern Kane County to James "Pate" Philip State Park in far western DuPage County.
The four-lane bridge that spans 1,100 feet over the Fox River opened to the public Wednesday afternoon.
Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay, South Elgin Village President Jim Hansen, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig and Hastert were among the ceremony's speakers.
They acknowledged the manpower involved, the property owners who relinquished their land for the common good, the environmental aspects and, among other things, the ways in which it will improve residents' quality of life.
"As you will soon see, the Stearns Road Corridor project was definitely worth the wait," Hansen said. "It's going to be a very big deal for South Elgin."
Former county board member and Transportation Committee chairman Bill Wyatt thanked Hastert for his leadership early in the project.
"You have to have a guy at the beginning who will take the flack," Wyatt said. "Dennis Hastert led the way and took the flack."
Scott Roscoe, president of the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council, said the $146.8 million project could not have come at a better time for the tradesmen and women.
Some of those workers attended Wednesday's ceremonies. They wore neon yellow construction vests that, on the front, said, "I worked on the Stearns Road Bridge Corridor," and, on the back, said, "The people of Kane County honor the men and women who worked on the Stearns Road Bridge Corridor."
They worked in January's brutally cold weather to make up for delays and finished the project on time with no loss-time accidents in the 250,000 man hours worked, Meagher said.
A police-escorted procession brought the ceremony's attendees to the bridge, where construction workers helped in cutting the ceremonial red, white and blue ribbon spanning the bridge's width.
"Today is a great day," Hastert said before the procession. "This is a good thing."