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More obvious is the little building on the plaza, which resembles a bus stop.
The DOT guys unlocked its only door, revealing a normal-looking stairway that, despite our elevation above the Mississippi River, gave me no pause.
The former toll plaza in the middle of the I-74 bridge is not a safe place for most of us.
Although the speed limit on the bridge is 50 mph, many motorists regard it as more recommendation than rule.
"I even went to a locksmith for advice."I always said that might be where Jimmy Hoffa ended up."When he noted the ceiling beam in one office extended into the vault, he even tried to make the argument the vault should be opened, so he could inspect that beam. It likely will be up to the demolition company that is hired to demolish the bridge in a few years to decide what to do with the vault.Tobey and senior equipment operator Ben Petty patiently followed, at the ready with answers to the questions that flowed like the current beneath us."We've never opened that vault," Petty said, seeing my eyes fall on a large, rusted door. We can only assume it's empty."Petty said he has followed in the footsteps of Dan Bailey, an IDOT bridge inspector who retired in 2015.During his 35 years as an inspector, Bailey walked every inch of both spans.Leaning my head back against the boat seat, I took a long look up at the underbelly of the bridge. I wondered about them for a long time, figuring the windows must have something to do with the toll-taking operation that once occupied the center of the I-74.So I poked around, finding lots of pictures of the old toll booths but finding little about what appeared to be offices underneath them. The yellowed news clip was in an envelope in the Quad-City Times' archives, marked, "BRIDGES - INTERSTATE 74" and "early clips."Sure enough, the story revealed that the offices were built into the piers that support the bridge deck and toll plaza.