A $1 million grant will repair the historic, unsafe Rockford Bridge near Keith Creek

Rockford has a big problem on her hands, but she also has a million dollars to deal with.

The century-old Eighth Avenue Bridge, located just east of Kishwaukee, is not only an eyesore, its structure is also crumbling and unsafe for heavy vehicles to pass over.

“It’s low,” City Engineer Timothy Hinkins said. “That means no vehicle over four tons can drive on it. That means buses. That means snowplows. It means emergency vehicles. It means they all have to take a different route to get to this neighborhood.”

The dilapidated piers on both sides of the bridge are blocked by fencing for safety reasons as well.

“So, the (Constance Lane Elementary) kids now have to walk down the street to the school, which is only one block away,” Henkins said.

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To help officials address the problem, the city recently received a $1 million federal grant secured by Congressman Eric Sorensen to pay for the bridge replacement. But don’t expect to see demolition crews in the neighborhood just yet.

The 1919 bridge, which spans Keith Creek, was found to have “historical significance” because of its rare double railings, Henkins said.

Because the city is using federal funds, he said the city must meet state EPA standards and prove the bridge needs to be replaced.

Pointing to the exposed rebar and other deficiencies in the concrete bridge, Henkins said he believes officials did.

Plans for the new bridge will have railings built to modern standards.

“But with these standards, we will be able to superficially mimic what these historic walls look like,” Henkins said. “It won’t add any structural significance, but they might be able to make it look like that.”

The bridge replacement project will also include upgrading century-old water infrastructure, removing toxic lead service lines, raising the roadway by one to two feet to eliminate the steep grade in the roadway, and demolishing the Martha Flores House on Eighth Avenue, located on the northwest end. From the bridge.

The creek is eroding the bank and encroaching on the Flores home, Henkins said. Once the house is removed, Keith Creek will be rerouted.

“The city wants to buy our house,” Flores said. “We’re just waiting for their message.”

Once the engineering design plans are finalized, the city can begin sales price negotiations and discuss relocation plans with the family, Henkins said.

After the city gets the green light from the state, Henkins said it will take six to eight months to design the new bridge and finalize construction plans.

“So, we hope to submit bids late next year so that construction can begin in 2025,” he said. “If things go our way, construction could start in late 2024.”

Chris Green: 815-987-1241; cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen

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