Janesville official envisions River Street as gateway

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Thursday, July 7, 2011
— Janesville’s River Street needs a fix, and plans call for the road to be upgraded to a gateway to the downtown.

Gateways are included in the Downtown Vision and Strategy, said Carl Weber, director of public works. River Street is the first gateway to be built since the plan was approved in 2007 and will serve as an example of things to come.

The design must be completed this fall for construction to begin in 2012. The council recently signed off on plans.

River Street was built in 1957, and the pavement has deteriorated. Concrete is expected to last about 50 years.

The project is six blocks long from West Racine Street to West Court Street. Estimated cost is $1.7 million. The federal government will pay about 80 percent.

The area is a mix of residences and office buildings and includes a bowling alley and hardware store.

The goal is to enhance the road’s appearance because of its elevated status, Weber said. Designers opted for a parkway so those passing will feel as if they are traveling through a “linear park.”

An earlier concept included a boulevard, but the city did not have enough right of way.

The new road will be narrowed slightly so the city can plant 6-foot terraces between the curb and sidewalk on both sides. That provides more green space and a better environment for trees.

The street includes two traffic lanes, two bike lanes and parking on one side.

About 38 on-street parking stalls would be lost, leaving 33. On-street stalls are lightly used, Weber said.

Parking would be available along Van Buren Street. The public lot between Union and Racine streets would be increased from 18 to 25 stalls.

The block between McKinley and West Court streets would have no parking to accommodate a right-turn lane for Court Street.

A rain garden will be built on city land on the road’s east side between Union and Rock streets

The bike trail will run just east of the Jackson Street Bridge, follow the shoreline, go through the rain garden and head into the downtown.

A bike trail already runs from Court Street through the parking plaza to Riverside Park.

All intersections except the one at Court and Racine streets will have bump-outs. Bump-outs shorten the distance that pedestrians must walk in the street and also make walkers more visible because they are not blocked by parked cars.

Bump-outs tend to slow traffic, Weber said.

Streetlights similar to those installed a few years ago on Court Street will be erected.

“What we’re looking for in the central district is to create a place people enjoy being in,” Weber said.

City to build rain garden

A planned rain garden between Union and Rock streets would be an aesthetic and educational enhancement along the rebuilt River Street, said Carl Weber, Janesville’s director of public works.

The garden would be about 50 feet wide by about 350 feet long.

A rain garden is a depressed area that sucks up the “dirty water” coming off the street. Plants chosen would have deep roots to allow water to percolate into the groundwater.

“It was a way for us to treat a portion of the water before it gets into the river, a unique opportunity considering that the street to the river is less than a couple hundred of feet away,” Weber said.

The area would be burned every three years.

Weber hopes to make the rain garden educational by including information along the trail.

Rain gardens require quite a bit of work to establish, but require little maintenance afterward, Weber said.

The sidewalk along River Street will join with the city bike trail and move through the rain garden in that area, making both more interesting, Weber said. The sidewalk’s relocation would allow more green space along the road, he added.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation must approve the combination sidewalk/bike trail before work can begin, Weber said.

Last updated: 5:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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