ROCKFORD (WREX) — For almost five years, the Jefferson Street Pedestrian Bridge hasn't seen any foot traffic, but the Rockford Park District says it's nearly ready to welcome pedestrians again after a lengthy renovation project.
In November of 2015, the park district closed the bridge due to safety concerns.
"Wear and tear on the structural members and decking, we just felt it was unsafe," Dan Jacobson, the park district's superintendent of operations, said.
Jacobson said years of salt from the above vehicle bridge had fallen down to the pedestrian bridge eroding it, a problem the park district says it has solved with the newest renovations.
Back when the bridge was first closed, the park district estimated it would cost $2.5 million to rehab. A year later in October 2016, the park district was awarded a grant through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program for $2 million.
"We had budgeted half a million dollars as the local share," Jacobson added.
With the full estimate for renovations budgeted, the project was supposed to finish by fall 2019. But Jacobson says it ran into some hurdles, including struggling to find the best plan for reassembling the bridge. Ultimately, a crane and barge will be used.
But since 2015, "Danger" and "No Trespassing" signs have been up and the gates have been locked. Now, park district officials say the project is nearing completion.
"We're eagerly anticipating the completion of the project and I know the community is too," Jacobson said.
Last December, 53 new LED lights were added for the walkway.
"Our bridge designers wanted to make sure we adequately lit the bridge for safety purposes, and with the LED lights, they are very energy efficient and long-lasting as well," Jacobson said.
Jacobson says if the weather continues to cooperate, he expects the bridge to reopen by late spring. He said it's been a missing link to the downtown area, one the community has been waiting for.
Once the pedestrian bridge is completed, it will have a lifespan of around 50 years.