By Shane Nicholson
Work on the Jefferson Street bridge is set to wrap up the week of Thanksgiving and should be open to downtown traffic either on the holiday or Black Friday, ahead of this year’s Stroll on State festivities.
“We’ve moved forward with projects like this and South Main Street in what’s a terrible economic climate for the state right now,” said Mayor Larry Morrissey, “and we’ve done it on schedule.”
Parts of the bridge will have to be revisited in the spring due to the advanced deterioration of the structure, according to City Engineer Matt Vitner. But he says that work is only expected to take a few weeks and will wrap up in May of 2016.
Jeff Street repairs cost $1.4 million and took just three months to complete. Estimates had placed a $50 million price tag on replacing the bridge, which carries 9,500 vehicles a day across the river.
• Next on the agenda: North Main Street, which Morrissey feels will complete a vital north-south link on the west side of town.
Utility work has already begun, with poles being replaced by underground services and outdated sewer fixtures getting an upgrade.
“You’ve got to look at it–where we’ve had Perryville on the east–this will be the first time in my lifetime that the whole west side will be connected by a four-lane road the whole way across,” the mayor told the Times.
• Both of those projects, part of the larger Capital Improvement Program (CIP), have been a boost for the city in the midst of an uncertain economic climate in the state.
Thanks to the 1 percent sales tax, set to return to the ballot next year, the CIP has been able to move forward even without state funds for crucial infrastructure projects.
• One issue still plaguing downtown: parking, and for the servers, bartenders and kitchen staff of the State Street district’s restaurants it can become a costly problem.
“Some of my people, they’re having to go out and move their car two, three, sometimes four times during a shift,” one downtown bar manager told the Times. “It’s ridiculous. People from all over the city come down here and spend their money, but a lot of it is going right back out of my employee’s pockets in parking tickets. We’ve got to find a solution to this.”
The new downtown sports center, now with a $1.9 million nameplate thanks to UW Health, will put an even tighter squeeze on an already stretched parking situation for workers.
“As more retail comes–more events come–it’s going to become a massive issue,” another downtown owner said. “We’re going to have to figure something out, because the more people we start bringing downtown the harder it’s going to be on the people serving them.”