A bridge that joins the east and west sides of Janesville’s downtown will continue to be out for at least nine more weeks, a project engineer estimated.
The contract for replacing the Milwaukee Street bridge originally required the work be done by June 21.
Now, the city, state and contractor are negotiating a new end date after delays caused by long periods of high water, said Alex Bromley, engineering consultant with Westbrook Associated Engineers.
Bromley said a date has not been set, but he guessed the bridge would be closed for “at least a month” after June 21.
Mike Payne of the city engineering staff said Monday the state and contractor still were discussing the new project end date, so it was hard to say when the bridge will open.
Downtown business owner Alicia Reid said she recently heard from a city official, who said he couldn’t predict when the bridge would be done.
“We are SO looking forward to having it back,” said Reid, who runs Raven’s Wish art gallery, one block west of the bridge.
Kevin Riley of Riley’s Sports Bar & Grill said a lot of regulars have stopped coming to his tavern because they used to walk across the bridge from Main Street, just across the river.
Now, they walk to a more convenient bar or find a different place for lunch, Riley said.
“It’s going to be a problem, but we’ve budgeted for it, so we’re going to be fine,” Riley said.
The $5.7 million bridge project began Oct. 1. Officials said in November high water was delaying work because barges could not fit under the old bridge spans. The barges were intended to haul away sections of the old bridge.
High water continued to cause problems this spring. Water spilled into cofferdams so fast that pumps couldn’t keep up, Bromley said.
Cofferdams are structures that allow workers to work below the waterline. In this case, cofferdams allow workers to build bridge supports below the streambed, Bromley said.
Right now, the water is low enough to allow work to continue, Bromley said.
After the new end date is set, the contractor, Zenith Tech of Waukesha, would be penalized about $2,000 a day if the bridge is not completed by that date, Bromley said.
However, Bromley said if the river rose again, a new, revised date might have to be set.
The river level at which problems begin is flood stage at the Rock River gauge at Afton, Bromley said. Flood stage at the gauge is 9 feet. The gauge on Monday was at 8 feet with the National Weather Service predicting the level will start dropping Wednesday.
Payne said drivers seem to be well trained to use the bridges located a few blocks to the north and south—the Court Street and Centerway bridges—to get to west-side businesses.
West Milwaukee Street business owners seem upbeat, even though the area continues to be the home to vacant open storefronts.
And Riley noted city plans to rebuild West Milwaukee Street in the near future, so the opening of the bridge might be just a reprieve before another downtown- renewal project gets in the way of business.
But Reid pointed to the recent news that Blackhawk Community Credit Union is looking to locate its “legacy center” honoring former General Motors works in the former First National Bank/Chase Bank. Also, the new Cobblestone Hotel and Suites should open sometime this year.
And, of course, the nearby ARISE Town Square development is another source of hope.
“We have a lot of good things happening downtown,” Reid said.