Jackson Street Bridge, Janesville WI

 The Jackson Street bridge — (pictured above from 1928 postcard)
All historical data provided by: Hedberg Public Library, Rock Count Historical Society Archives, and what small amount of information could be found on the Internet.Any current information is provided by the City of Janesville, through the Jackson Street Bridge Committee, however, the accuracy of that information as it is posted here and any unintentional misinformation, misunderstanding, error or opinion is the responsibility of the creator of this web page, as it pertains to this posting.

email: jacksonstreetbridge@gmail.com

facebook page: Jackson Street Bridge, Janesville WI


 (The old group is being discontinued and a new page has been started. 11/10/2011)

For more information and photos of the Jackson Street bridge click here  (Not associated with this site’s link.)





07/22/2015 Jackson Street Bridge Ribbon Cutting Ceremony/Block Party!

Thanks to everyone involved in this project, and thanks for involving me! Thank you to the web viewers keeping track of the last five years’ worth of progress. There were refreshments, and guest speakers.  Several Council members and city staff were in attendance.  Committee members were named (including yours truly) and someone was handing out freezy pops.  Good times!  The ribbon was cut (yes, with giant scissors). The bicycles, including many children, went across the bridge first, with police escort, followed by classic cars – many of them made in the GM plant.  There were line dancers, three demos of water rescues, and a drone filming us from above (I bet we will be finding that on YouTube soon)! Enjoy a few pictures from the event today (before my camera battery went dead). And thanks again!







07/06/2015  Jackson Street Bridge ribbon cutting July 22, 4-6 pm! http://www.ci.janesville.wi.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=3704

06/12/2015 This is it!  The final stretch!  Watch for the unveiling dates coming at the end of July.


City of Janesville information concerning the closing of the bridge during construction: CLICK HERE.

UPDATE: 10/06/2014 Getting closer!  Road Closed signs are up!


UPDATE: 09/04/2014

Great news!  The bids are in, and the expected (lowest) bid would be 20% less than the consultants’ original estimates for the project!  Work is scheduled to begin October 1, 2014 with that bidder.

UPDATE:  02/27/2014

Final Plans Are Due: March 2014

Public Information Meeting #3: Summer or Fall 2014 (Prior to Construction)

Letting Date: August 14, 2014

Structure Demolition: Fall 2014 – Winter 2015

Bridge Construction: Spring 2015 – Summer/Fall 2015

A few additional renditions from the February 5th meeting that I would like to include:

Historic Distric

Historic District

Railings, Crash Tested

Railings, Crash Tested

Proposed Bridge Structure

Proposed Bridge Structure

Cross Section

Cross Section

Detour Route

Detour Route

Site Plan

Site Plan

UPDATE: 01/28/2014

“The city of Janesville and MSA Professional Services, Inc., will host the second Public Informational Meeting regarding the S. Jackson Street Bridge Replacement project. 
Design Committee Members are invited to attend.
This meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 5, 2014, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, in Room 416 of the Municipal Building.   The MSA design team will make a short presentation at 5:30 pm.  City of Janesville and MSA design staff will be available before and after the presentation to answer questions, explain exhibits, and provide additional information regarding the project.
In addition to this invitation to the Design Committee Members, an invitation to the general public will be sent to local media including the  Janesville Gazette.  Council Members will be notified and invited to attend.  Property owners in the general area and abutting the project between Delavan Drive and just north of Rockport Road, will receive written notice of the meeting.”

Update: 01/06/2012

Above photo depicts the area that the bridge and road constructions will take place.

Above photo displays the existing bridge conditions.

Above photo is a rendition of the bride plan that will likely be decided upon.  As you can see, its lighting, arches and rails all nod to the history of the existing bridge.  The architectural  lines are similar in style and form.

Meeting on Monday, December 17, 2012, 5:00 PM
Room 416, Municipal Building, Janesville, WI
Project 5990-00-00 (Design) 5990-00-84 (Construction)
City of Janesville, Jackson Street
(Rock River Bridge P-53-0727)
Local Street
Rock County
A. Discussion of Bridge Rehabilitation vs. Bridge Replacement
1. MSA explained the type of repairs necessary if the City were to
rehabilitate the existing bridge. Additionally, it is likely that the
rehabilitation would only last another 10 to 15 years and at that time
a new bridge or more rehabilitation work may be necessary.
B. Discussion of Bridge Alternatives
1. Structure types
a. Renderings were provided that showed an option for a four
span, 36” prestressed girder as well as a six span, sand-filled
spandrel, continuous arch bridge.
C. Discussion of Bridge Railing Alternatives
1. Existing Railing
a. MSA explained that the existing spindle railing is not crash
tested and would not be approved by the WisDOT. If spindles
were desired, a barrier wall would be required between the
sidewalk and the roadway travel lanes.
2. Texas Rail
a. The proposed Texas style railing was presented. Photos of
examples showing this style were provided. MSA explained
that a similar style railing was provided to the contractor as an
alternative to the spindle in the original 1918 bridge plans. It
was also noted that there are other bridges in City with the
Texas style railing such as the Court St bridge.
3. Barrier Wall
a. MSA provided examples of barrier walls and explained when
they are needed.
D. Discussion of Bridge Typical Section
1. Three typical sections with alternatives for sidewalk widths and
multi-use paths were presented to the public:
a. 8’ sidewalks on both sides
b. 8’ sidewalk, 16’ multi-directional multi-use path Page 2 of 3
c. 8’ sidewalk, 12’ multi-directional multi-use path with barrier
d. All typical sections showed one 12’ travel lane and 5’ bike line
in each direction. It was explained that historical, current, and
projected volumes still show that one lane in each direction can
support the volumes. The historical high for AADT provided
by the City was 11,160 from the year 1989 when GM was in
E. Discussion of New Bridge Lighting
1. An option for the acorn style bridge lighting was presented to the
public. The light fixture and pole would match an existing style that
is currently used in the City’s Arbor Ridge Subdivision.
F. Presentation of Preliminary Schedule
Public Information Meeting #1: December 17, 2012
Preliminary Plan Submittal: May 1, 2013
Public Information Meeting #2: Fall 2013
Environmental Report Submittal: December 1, 2013
Design Study Report Submittal: December 15, 2013
Right-of-Way Plat: January 1, 2014
Final Plans: March 1, 2014
Public Information Meeting #3: Summer or fall 2014 (prior to
Letting Date: August 14, 2014
Structure Demolition: Fall 2014 thru winter 2015
Bridge Construction: Spring 2015 thru fall 2015
G. Public Questions/Comments
1. A member of the public asked how the design will accommodate
river flows during construction. MSA responded by saying that a
causeway may be needed in order to construct the mid-span piers.
River flows would be maintained during construction.
2. A member of the public asked about the navigational clearance and
how much we are providing on the proposed bridge. MSA referred
to the Engineered 1/1 profile drawing of the four span, 36”
prestressed girder along with the profile of the existing bridge.
There is approximately 9 feet of navigational clearance between
the ordinary water elevation and the high point on existing bridge
arch. The proposed bridge will provide an additional 2 feet of
navigational clearance for a total of 11 feet.
3. A member of the public asked where the Q100 river level hits on
the existing and proposed bridge. MSA referred to the Engineered Page 3 of 3
1/1 profile drawing of the four span, 36” prestressed girder along
with the profile of the existing bridge. The Q100 is approximately
3 feet below the bridge arch. For the four span, Q100 is
approximately 5 feet below the highpoint in the arch facia panel
and approximately the same elevation where the facia panel
connects to the bridge piers. It was explained that the arch facia
panels are designed to be above the Q100 to avoid damage due to
4. There was a follow up question regarding the traffic volumes on
the bridge. MSA explained that the peak volume of over 11,160
vehicles per day was recorded in 1989 when GM employed almost
7,000 people. When we considered the 11,160 vehicles per day
and doubled the projected traffic growth to 6,000 vehicles per day
over 20 years, the total volume of 17,160 still maintained the LOS
C for a 2 lane roadway (one lane in each direction). It was also
noted that Reuther Way (a designated truck route constructed for
GM) was constructed in 2003/2004 which has also changed the
truck patterns in the area since it provides direct access to the
5. A member of the public voiced concerns over the need to account
for possible damage to the river paths during flooding.
6. There was some feedback from a member of the public who was
passing on concerns from another resident regarding the railings.
They said the resident had concerns with the safety of children
when crossing the bridge while walking to Wilson Elementary
School As such, they thought a second railing should be installed
located between the travel lanes and sidewalk to serve as a barrier
between traffic and pedestrians. They suggested that the railing
could be installed on only one side of the bridge. It was discussed
that there were not a lot of students walking across the bridge to
7. How far will the existing piers be left out of the water? MSA
responded by saying the existing piers will be removed to an
elevation of 2 feet below the river bottom so none of the existing
piers will be visible.
8. Allison Rollette requested copies of a few displays so she can add
to her Facebook page. She requested:
a. Existing Bridge Condition Display
b. Overview Display
c. 4 Span Bridge Rendering
d. 4 Span Engineered Structure
e. Project Fact Sheet

Update: 10-10-2012

Latest Update from the City of Janesville:

“The city has hired MSA Professional Services, Inc., Madison, WI., for bridge design services. To date, MSA has completed portions of the initial site survey and began coordination with public and private utilities that will be impacted during the actual reconstruction work.

As part of the initial site survey, MSA will be conducting and/or coordinating historical, archeological, and cultural studies within the public right-of-way along the project limits. Such studies will be conducted this fall and will assist engineers in design to avoid or minimize the project’s impact on environmentally sensitive areas. […]

In general, the design process and subsequent plan preparation will continue through approximately mid 2014.”

UPDATE: 11/01/2011

New updates to “History” section located at bottom of this page.h


UPDATE: 11/01/2011

Five selected consultants were interviewed between yesterday and today.  Excellent teams, excellent presentations, all very capable of providing a quality product and service for our city and our project needs.  It was fantastic, from a citizen perspective, to participate in the interview and selection process, which involved a numerical score card for rating each team in a variety of categories.  It was not about who had on the best neck tie.   We should know with certainty in the next couple of weeks which team will provide their services on this project.  I look forward to watching the progress of this design team, as they work through the many challenges and  issues that the Jackson Street bridge will present to them during their analysis and design process.

UPDATE: 08/19/2011

“The City has recently received approval from the WDOT to begin the solicitation of interest from bridge design consultants for our Jackson Street Bridge Reconstruction project. We will shortly be releasing a Notice of Interest Questionnaire thru the WDOT consultant data base. Responses will be due by 9/22/11. Those responses will be screened by City and WDOT staff and shortlisted to a group of 5 consultants. The 5 selected consultants will be invited to interview in October or November of this year. Following those interviews the City and WDOT will negotiate an agreement with the highest rated consultant. It is anticipated that design work will commence in the spring of 2012 and progress to a bid letting in the summer of 2014. Actual construction is projected to start in late 2014 and take one to two years to complete[…]”

UPDATE: 12/16/2010

“[…] I’m happy to report that I received notice yesterday that the City’s request for grant funds to reconstruct the Jackson Street Bridge has been approved. The total cost estimate for design and construction is $6.2M with $5.5M provided by Federal Bridge Replacement funds. The funding will be available in the summer of 2012 to start the project design. The next step will be for the City and the State to enter into an agreement. Once that is fully executed, the process for selecting a consultant will begin. I expect that process to begin in the spring of 2011. Based on the availability of funds and the time needed to complete the design process I would expect that the bridge could be reconstructed in 2014 thru 2015, one year later than we anticipated last summer[…]”

UPDATE: 11/29/2010

Apparently, a technical issue in the State Central Office has been holding up the prioritization of all requests statewide.  So we’ve not been approved yet, but we‘ve also not been rejected.  The DOT District office will notify the city of Janesville as soon as they know something.

Latest Local Media News Link(s) click here.

Update 6/09/2010:

Structural testing of all bridges is required every two years.  2010 is a testing year for Janesville’s bridges.  Testing generally takes place in Autumn.  In order to potentially meet deadlines for any and all grant applications concerning the Jackson Street bridge, testing of this bridge has already been contracted, and expedited to June 4th, 2010.  This  testing included an underwater inspection.  According to the city, the 2008 Sufficiency Rating for the Jackson Street bridge was 55.7.  The NEW S.R. rating of 43 acquired in June 2010 has determine the future course of action for the bridge.  The bridge is currently safe for traffic, despite its cosmetic issues.  The Public Works Department will submit a grant request for design and reconstruction of the bridge this July. The State and Federal Highway Departments will review the inspection report, and if approved, consider our application for funding.  We will be notified if our funding is approved this November.  If approved, reconstruction of the bridge could be expected as early as Summer, 2013.   Please check back frequently for updates.

Jackson Street Bridge Committee (adhoc) begins meeting May 26, at 2010 5:00 pm.  Location: 18 N. Jackson St. 4th Floor Janesville, WI 53547 Meetings will be held as needed to help determine the fate of the historic Jackson Street bridge.

Some general Janesville Bridge history:

Rock County, Wisconsin — William Fiske Brown, A. A. Jackson

(History of Janesville, Wisconsin. By Charles L. Fifield. 1908)

“The first ford across Rock river used by the Indians and early settlers was from the big bend southwest across to the east side opposite the “big rock.” In the spring of 1836 Judge Holmes built a ferryboat of timbers and planks which he sawed with a whipsaw. After the scow was completed the Holmes boys and their father, the judge, carried on that ferry about midway between the big bend and the big rock for several months. In the fall of the same year Henry F. Jones and Aaron Walker constructed a larger ferryboat and, having obtained a charter from the territorial legislature, conducted their ferry at the location now occupied by the Milwaukee Street bridge in connection with a one-story log tavern, which stood on the ground now occupied by the Lappin block. They were succeeded in the business by J. P. Dickson until 1842, when Charles Stevens and others purchased it and began the construction of a toll bridge. When that was completed they ceased running the ferry, and as settlers were increasing the toll bridge became quite a profitable enterprise. A few citizens, however, who resented the so-called monopoly, raised funds and began to build an opposition free bridge about sixty rods south of the Stevens toll bridge. They were legally enjoined by the circuit court, but allowed by the supreme court of the state. During the long litigation Issac Blood, wishing to cross the toll bridge, and being determined not to pay toll, battered down the toll gates with a big club. The gates were repaired,
but as the law now allowed the lower bridge, it was soon completed, and then the owners of the upper bridge voluntarily took the toll gates from their hinges and Janesville had two free bridges. The bridge at Monterey was built by the city in 1856. All three bridges have been several times rebuilt, and the upper two are now substantial structures.


The second [2nd Wisconsin State Fair that was held in Janesville] state fair was held at Janesville from September 28 to October 2, 1857.  This was held on the lower grounds which had been made into a fair grounds at the lower end of Main street in what is now the Spring Brook addition to the city.  This fair was very largely attended, the gross receipts amounting to 8,804.60.

[In 1857] A bridge was built by the city across the river from the foot of Jackson street to the west end of the fair grounds.  This bridge remained in existence for some years and then was destroyed, and there was no bridge across the river at that point until about fifteen years ago, [circa 1893] when the present Jackson Street bridge was erected.”


Originally a sturdy wooden structure, capable of supporting the most heavily laden horse-drawn wagon, the bridge was ultimately replaced circa 1919.   (Plans and bids were set in place in 1918, and work  by C.V. Kerch and the Wausau Iron Works commenced 1919-1920.)  The result is the structure that current exists. It was decided that the replacement was necessary to handle the heavy industrial traffic (motorized vehicles) to and from surrounding industries.  The current structure spans the river approximately 300 feet to the West of the Spring Brook (railroad) bike path bridge.  The Jackson Street bridge connects the “Old 4th Ward historical district on the North abutment to city-owned vacant park land on the South abutment, which leads directly to the former industrial core of Janesville and the General Motors Assembly plant, which remains vacant and on stand-by since 2009.  Jackson Street itself is a flow through to Janesville’s downtown area, and the bridge itself could ultimately serve as a junction point for the Ice Age Trail system and the Rock trail system.  The bridge itself is reinforced concrete, six spans, each measuring approximately 56 feet in length, sand-filled arch structure.  The details are Neoclassical in nature with separate “urns” that make up the balustrade railings.  Each pier has a decorative, if not functional,  icebreaker style pyramid angle.  The bridge originally had acorn-style pole lighting, as seen in the original pictures.  New lighting will be considered.

Current challenges for rehabilitating or rebuilding the bridge would include things such as:  

Determining whether the bridge is eligible for the National Register, which will probably have to include a full-scale analysis and possible core samples of the bridge materials, and structure evaluation to determine structural integrity for the possibility of rehab. 

Working with Utilities to deal with the natural gas line, as well as the overhead power and communication lines.

Environmental issues, such as any potential silt and soil impacts from the contaminated soils located on the Northeast side of the bridge from former dry cleaners,  to the petroleum contamination in the Southeast corner.  Any wetlands that would be impacted, any protected or endangered species that could be at that location, as well as hydraulic and hydrologic issues will need to be studied.  The creation of a storm water collection system to help maintain the bridge deck, as well as prevent contaminates on the roadway from entering the river directly will be studied.  Any potential archaeological issues will need to be documented as well.

Traffic routing during construction will be an additional challenge, as there are business needs in the area.  Public involvement will be key for ALL aspects of design and function.

Planning ahead for the needs of the next 70 to 100 years: by providing future connection access for the bike trail systems, waterway clearance headroom, sufficient room for expected traffic flow.  A fabulous vision would include a landscaped area that takes people through the park areas to river access via bike path access.  With some effort, over time, this area could become a destination again.  Historical signage for the bridge, GM, etc. would also be significant for this area in the future.


(Pictured above: Jackson Street Bridge circa 1911, provided: by Rock County Historical Society Archives)