Jackson Street bridge reopens to traffic Thursday

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Elliot Hughes
July 22, 2015

JANESVILLE – Janesville's south side and Fourth Ward neighborhoods are again linked across the Rock River.

More than 300 people turned out for a party to celebrate the opening of a new Jackson Street bridge that replaces the structure torn down last fall.

The bridge was christened by a parade of dozens of children on bicycles, followed a series of antique cars. Those who showed up for the ceremony also were treated to free food from the Janesville Police Department as part of an ongoing initiative to host block parties in the Fourth Ward area.

“People had been inconvenienced for a while, so we need to have a party,” said Kay Deupree, a city council member. She played a role in the bridge's design process and also, as a Fourth Ward resident, helped plan the celebration.

The bridge will open to traffic at 8 a.m. Thursday. The Janesville Transit System will also end its detours for the Janesville-Milton-Whitewater, Kellogg Avenue and Nightside West routes.

Construction of the $4.2 million bridge began in October 2014. Matt McGrath, a senior engineer for the city, said 80 percent of the costs were covered by a federal grant.

After an inspection in summer 2010, the old, six-span bridge was given a rating of 43 out of 100, which is still considered to be safe but also qualifies a bridge to receive federal grants for its replacement.

The new, four-span bridge stretches 373 feet long and is expected to last 75 years. It offers better accommodations to all modes of transportation than its predecessor, city officials said.

Each side has a bike lane, and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail snakes underneath the north end of the bridge, avoiding cross-traffic with vehicles.

The sidewalks on each side are also wider. McGrath said the sidewalks of the old bridge “were so skinny it made you feel like you were going to be get run over.”

Rod Burris, a Janesville resident who is blind, said he used to walk across the old Jackson Street bridge weekly. He's happy the new one has wider sidewalks.

“It's wonderful,” he said.

The railings are also strong enough to prevent a car from tumbling off the bridge, McGrath said. That wasn't the case with the last one.

“The new bridge is just so much better in so many ways,” he said.

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