The reopening of the Murray Baker Bridge: what a joyous sight. I suppose it didn’t take all that long, although the headaches it caused certainly made it seem like an eternity for those affected on a day-to-day basis. We won’t forget it, and some of our grandchildren won’t forget it either, as the meet me in the middle boast gets retold over the years.

It’s been “just” six months, and while the entire job has another construction season to go, we’ve survived—and survived quite well. All the riverfront festivities over the season went on without missing a beat, as did the softball tournaments in East Peoria.

We’ve learned a different way to cross the river—and for those who come from the east to work downtown, probably a new way they’ll continue to use. We’ve learned new parts of Peoria and East Peoria, as detours took us through previously unfamiliar neighborhoods. Getting from Point A to Point B has involved traversing Points C and D.

It’s been no small feat to reroute the more than 62,000 vehicles that used the bridge each day. But it was done, and it seemed that as one ramp closed, another opened. All we have left is next season’s closure of the War Memorial interchange. I’m sure we’ll all find it won’t be that inconvenient to find a new way to the mall and its neighboring stores.

If there’s one swing of the wrecking ball the entire area can cheer, it’s the start of demolition of the Sears block downtown. In a relative blink of the eye, we’ll see a welcome end to one project and the welcome beginning of another.

While it means more time with detours and the like, the resulting Central Illinois Regional Museum and Caterpillar Visitor Center will put Peoria on the map. It’ll be the crowning achievement in making us a regional, national, and even international attraction.

Thousands of visitors will come here because of the remodeled Peoria Civic Center. A downtown institution since 1982, the Civic Center is undergoing a major facelift. When that’s all done, we’ll be able to attract larger conventions and reap the benefits they’ll bring to the area. Among other things, we’ll enjoy a larger exhibit hall and a remodeled arena—with expanded restroom facilities, no less.

The Glen Oak Zoo expansion and renovation will have a major impact, and the Caterpillar museum in East Peoria will be a “must stop” for residents and visitors alike.

So much is happening at once, it’s hard to take it all in. But stop for a second and envision what it’ll be like here when all the pieces are in place.

Exciting, isn’t it? IBI