ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — In a few months, Stateline pedestrians will once again have a safer path across the Rock River. The Jefferson Street Pedestrian Bridge has been closed for four years. Since then people crossing the river have had to walk up top on the narrow sidewalks, or go out of their way to State Street for more walking room.
In the last week, construction crews have finally started taking the old bridge apart and in a few months, pedestrians will have safe passage across the Jefferson Bridge once again
“We’ve always noticed it’s been here,” said Hannah Baggiore, resident. “We walk on Sinnissippi all the time and I’ve never seen it open.”
The pedestrian walkway underneath the Jefferson Street bridge has been closed for several years now, limiting the ways people have to get across the Rock River.
Plans to rebuild the structure are finally in motion and with all the new activities downtown, the new bridge couldn’t come at a better time.
“This is just the next evolution in the revitalization of downtown Rockford,” said Patrick Gallaher, General Manager at Prairie Street Brewing Co. “I moved here about 11 years ago and there was very little to do down here. You know they started out with the Anthony Bourdain thing and things like that to get things building and now they’ve got more restaurants, more activities down here.”
The Rockford Park District closed the bridge in 2015 after it was deemed unsafe. Since then, pedestrians have been using narrow sidewalks to cross the river.
“It made me as a mom really nervous, so something underneath it would make me feel a lot more
at ease for sure,” Baggiore said. “There’s so much more traffic down here. I think with like City Market and like Prairie Street, so many more events down here, so I think just for pedestrians in general that would be a much safer option.”
The new bridge doesn’t come cheap. The park district is putting $500,000 toward the cost and a $2 million state grant will cover the rest of the project.
“It’s always kind of, since I’ve been here, a bit of an east side versus west side of the river,” Gallaher said. “Nothing about it except you got a river dividing. You can’t easily go back and forth between the two sides”
“We have fabulous path systems throughout the city of Rockford,” said Ian Linnabary, President of Board of Commissioners of the Rockford Park District. Throughout the Rockford Park District and connecting those path systems that lie on both sides of the river is very important.”
The pedestrian bridge is scheduled to be open for use in Fall 2019.