City planning to replace Jackson Street bridge
It all depends on a federal grant program.
The deteriorating bridge was built in 1918, and nearby residents such as Bill McCoy have advocated for years to improve the bridge.
“It’s been over 12 years fighting for this, and I’m very glad that it’s finally coming,” McCoy said.
He lives about three blocks from the bridge and crosses it several times a day.
His biggest concern has been the safety of pedestrians, many of them schoolchildren.
The city’s fall bridge inspections were moved up to late spring to allow officials to meet the July 31 deadline to apply for federal funds, said Carl Weber, public works director.
The state requires all bridges in the city be inspected every two years. The bridge received a rating of 43 out of 100 after its recent inspection, Weber said.
That means the bridge has aged enough since its inspection two years ago—when it received a rating of 55.7—to qualify for the federal funds, he said.
To be eligible for the federal replacement funds, a bridge must have a rating of less than 50.
“I think the city’s presumption in the past was that we would seek to replace the bridge, but we can’t do that unless we either pay for it ourselves, or it ages to the point (where it qualifies for the federal funds),” Weber said.
Despite its rating, the bridge still is safe and able to handle traffic loads, he said.
The cost to replace the 383-foot bridge is estimated at $6.5 million. Of that, federal funds could cover $5.2 million.
The city is applying for funds for design and construction but won’t find out until November if Janesville is awarded federal funds.
“I think there’s a real good chance we’ll get the design engineering funds,” Weber said.
If they don’t receive those or the construction funds, the city will apply again in 2011, he said.
Construction, however, wouldn’t take place until sometime between 2013 and 2015 because that’s when the money is available, Weber said.
“The important thing is to get the money for design so we can keep the project moving,” he said.
A nine-member committee of neighbors and business owners was set up to provide information to the neighborhood and gather input, he said. The committee met once in May and likely won’t meet again until November.
The committee’s purpose is to help dispel misinformation about the bridge, Weber said.
“People were stating we were ignoring the need to address this bridge,” he said. “I felt there was a need to get information to area businesses and residents about what our strategy is and how it takes time to go through that process.
“If we are successful in getting a grant to rebuild, then we’ll want some input from the users of the bridge as to how it should function and how it should look,” he said.
Although he’s happy progress is being made, McCoy said he wishes construction could start now “to put people back to work.”