Completed in 1993, the Bob Michel Bridge replaced the Franklin Street Bridge, which had served the Peoria region since 1913. Though it accommodated boat, road – and even horse – traffic for 80 years, the Franklin Street Bridge was a steel truss bridge with a two-lane deck that was considered too narrow. In addition, as boats approached the bridge, the alignment was off-center, making it difficult to judge the clearance and leading to accidents.
Interestingly, the Bob Michel Bridge was initially constructed to replace the Franklin Street Bridge and serve an industrial area across the river from downtown Peoria. Today, that industrial area is gone, and a large retail and entertainment area that includes Dozer Park, the home of Peoria Chiefs Baseball, has taken the place of old factories. In fact, even the street name of “Industrial Spur” has been replaced by “Riverfront Drive.”
The bridge is named after the late Peoria native Congressman Robert H. Michel (March 2, 1923 – February 17, 2017) who represented the region in Washington D.C. for nearly four decades. In addition to his time in public office, Michel was a War World II veteran and hero, earning four battle stars, two Bronze stars and a Purple Heart.
Photos supplied with copyright permission from the Peoria Public Library archives and the Estate of C. Richard Neumiller.