Rockford, Illinois News

Downtown bridges being replaced

ROCKFORD — Two bridges in Rockford will be replaced following a recent order by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

The order requires the Union Pacific Railroad to replace bridges and First and Second streets–structures originally constructed in the mid-1800s by the railroad. The First Street bridge was closed in 2014, followed by the Second Street bridge in 2017, after failing IDOT inspections.

After trying unsuccessfully to receive a commitment from the railroad to replace the structure, the City petitioned the ICC to order the Railroad to replace these structures.

“On April 1, 2021, the ICC granted the City’s request, in an interim order, and determined that the railroad is ultimately responsible for ensuring the continued conveyance of City traffic over its rail line,” the City of Rockford wrote in a social-media release.

The order states that the railroad will be responsible for the costs of the replacement of one vehicular bridge. The ICC will provide funding assistance of up to 80% of the cost of a pedestrian bridge.

The city decided to replace the First Street bridge with a vehicular bridge and replace the Second Street structure with a pedestrian bridge to avoid an increase of speeding vehicular traffic through the historic Haight Village neighborhood.

Bridge design exceptions were also allowed to help preserve the adjacent historic properties. The city elected to manage the design and construction of these two bridges and will be reimbursed by the Railroad and ICC. The city will take ownership of these structures upon completion to prevent another lapse in maintenance and replacement responsibilities from the railroad in the future.

“The replacement of these two structures will reestablish a vital connection from the west side of Rockford, via the Morgan Street Bridge, to downtown destinations at minimal cost to the City,” the city’s release said.

A final order will be issued upon the completion of engineering and final scope and costs of this project is better defined. The engineering for this project is currently underway and both bridges are expected to be completed by 2023.