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Fixing the Jackson Street Bridge

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Greg Peck
January 9, 2013

A few critics have been vocal about the city of Janesvilleís foot-dragging when it comes to rebuilding the Jackson Street Bridge. Thatís understandable, given the bridgeís unsightly condition. Itís not just that concrete pillars on the railing are crumbling or missing. Heck, a lengthy section on one end of the western railing is missing so many pillars that a guardrail has been secured over the gaping hole. I got a closeup look at all this in a visit to snap a few photos on Monday. Perhaps, since the bridge is no longer in a high-traffic area now that traffic from General Motors isnít traversing it daily, it has taken a back seat to other more pressing infrastructure plans in the city.

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Some critics wonder if the bridge is even safe, particularly after the 2008 flood, but apparently it is. The bridgeís rating in an inspection required by the state this past summer, however, did find the 92-year-old bridgeís rating had dropped low enough that the city qualifies for federal replacement funding.

Thatís good because the project is expected to cost about $6.7 million, and city taxpayers will only have to pay about $1.2 million of that directly. I read about all this in a front-page story by Rick West in our sister publication, the Janesville Messenger, on Sunday.

Of course, unlike those planned roundabouts at the Racine Street intersection of Interstate 90/39, donít expect the Jackson Street Bridge project to get underway at the first sign of spring. The concrete on that bridge will have to not only survive the rest of this winter but the freeze-and-thaw cycles of next winter, as well.

When it is rebuilt, starting in 2014 and continuing into 2015, the bridge will retain the historic sand hill arch structure. It will not replicate the current design but instead look similar. The two traffic lanes in each direction will be reduced to one, however, and the sidewalks will be widened to better accommodate foot and bicycle traffic.

In its heyday, the bridge was a much-photographed icon of Janesville. Today, not so much.

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Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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