City Beat: Jeff Street bridge back under the knife

By Shane Nicholson
Managing Editor

Just two days after the 1 percent sales tax benefitting the Capital Improvement Project was renewed for another five years, one of downtown’s main arteries is set to go back under the knife.

The Jefferson Street bridge, which carries downtown traffic over the Rock River from east to west, will close Thursday for additional repairs to its column and beam structures.

Then City Engineer and now Interim Director of Public Works Matthew Vitner told The Times last November that the advanced deterioration of the structure made DPW look at a second round of work on the structure. The bridge was closed last year from mid-August to the week of Thanksgiving.

“You’ve got a bridge here that–it’s not outlasted its lifespan, but it needs work,” Vitner said last year. “We could go through and fix the road deck and it’d be set for a few years, or we could go through and repair the bridge from the bottom up, and that will serve the town better in the long term.”

Last year’s round of work on the bridge totalled $1.4 million, a number Vitner has said will provide a significant return on investment for the city as long-term infrastructure solutions are still being considered.

The sales tax, which has generated over $120 million for roadwork and infrastructure repair in Rockford, was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday by a margin of nearly 10,000 votes.

“I am extremely proud of the results on the referendum,” Mayor Larry Morrissey said Tuesday night. “We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do, but this was a great result for Rockford and for the entire area.”

The Jefferson Street bridge last underwent major renovations in 1994. A price tag of $50 million was cited as the replacement cost for the structure which carries more than 9,500 vehicles a day.

Work on the bridge is expected to wrap up by the first week of May when the roadway will reopen for traffic.

Lower Jefferson Street, which has acted as a staging area for the repair work, will be ready for traffic again in time for this year’s City Market season Vitner told The Times Wednesday.

Detour routes via the Whitman Street bridge will be posted downtown.

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