Old, Unused Railroad Bridge Gets Re-Purposed As Pedestrian Bridge

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- What’s old is becoming new. The railroad bridge south of Davis Park has been out of commission for years but now it's being given a new purpose, and its 800 feet, suspended over rarely seen parts of the Rock River, is sure to be Rockford’s new selfie hot spot.

Having grown up in the Forest City, now working daily downtown, Justin Foreman is excited to see what the future holds for his city, "Ya know, get downtown a little bit easier and I think a bike path will be worth it," he said.

Andrea Mandala, of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, added, "A safer way to get along the river and a way for people to enjoy the river in a different way."

This summer, about mid-August, the days of the vintage but useless railroad bridge will be water under the bridge; instead, it will be foot and bike traffic from one side of the Rock River to the other, without having to deal with busy streets or any real traffic.

"(They’ll) get to our downtown area where they can have lunch and then easily get back to the (UW Health Sports Factory) facility," Mandala said.

"And there will be a couple of overlooks where you can get out of the mainstream of the path and kind of look over the water and enjoy the views of downtown," said Matthew Vitner, Interim Public Works Director.

About half of the $1.5 million project is being paid for through a “Rails to Trails” transportation enhancement grant - fairly self-expanitory - motor fuel taxes soak up the rest.

"Enjoying our park space, shopping, and eating downtown when they come to visit,” Vitner envisions. “And then going back saying, 'Rockford's done a great job. We want to come back again.'"

With one of the Midwest’s largest indoor sports facilities about to open, Vitner believes marquee projects are happening at the perfect time for downtown Rockford.

"It seems like they're very isolated and now we're developing that continuity through the downtown, to where all the projects are connected, and it's starting to come alive,” he said. “We anticipate the boom in the downtown area to continue."

Foreman thinks the pedestrian bridge will complement some of Rockford’s bigger plans, "They gotta really get the job done in the downtown area and it's gonna be a good thing for this community," he said.

The “Rails to Trails” project started two years ago. Vitner is toying with the idea of relocating the founders crossing monument to the West side of the bridge because that's where the original founders crossing stood.

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