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New Morgan Street Bridge Reconnects Rockford's South Side

A new bridge spanning the Rock River is being viewed as something more than a way to get across Rockford’s south side. It’s part of the revitalization of a long-neglected area of the city.

Rockford Alderman Venita Hervey has worked with federal, state, and local officials for the past few years to make sure the crumbling, hundred year old Morgan Street Bridge was replaced. And Tuesday, the 29-million dollar dream came true. Hervey, Governor Pat Quinn, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, and dozens of other elected officials joined south side residents in the middle of the bridge for the ribbon-cutting. Cars and trucks were soon rolling across the river at Morgan Street for the first time in two years. Hervey says people who think residents and businesses in her ward are pinning their hopes on a bridge have it all wrong:

“We pin our hopes on ourselves. The bridge supports what we are trying to do. And that is to revitalize our shopping areas, but also our neighborhoods.”

The area’s former alderman Victory Bell knows the long history of struggles it took to get to this day: and he called it a great day for the whole city.

Rockford City manager Jim Ryansays replacing the bridge has been one of his goals since returning to his hometown in 1999. It’s right where Rockford was founded, and where innovative industries thrived in the 19th century.

“My hope is that this magnificent archway bridge will serve as inspiration for public and private investment to wake up the echoes of the past that once made this one of the most innovative and prosperous places in Illinois and the country.”

Valeri DeCastris is president of the Ethnic Village Neighborhood Association. She says businesses may have suffered during construction in the short term, but the bridge had to be replaced: it was unsafe, and it needed to be able to handle more traffic.

“And more importantly, it marks a rebirth of revitalization of the area that has already been underway. It means a lot to the people to have the prettiest bridge in Rockford.”

Alderman Hervey says the reopening of the bridge is huge for an area that, as she put it, “has seen better days.”

“I’ve already got people who are inquiring about opening their stores, renovating buildings, and looking at new opportunities.”

The reopening of the crossing is good for existing businesses, too. Leticia Carpenter is a cashier at Luichi’s Hotdogs. She says not only does make it more convenient for customers to get to the restaurant…

"Getting to work is quicker! It’s awesome. I’m so happy the bridge is finally open. It’s going to bring a lot more people in.”

The new bridge is part of a larger revitalization project for the area, with 11 million dollars worth of road improvements on both sides of the river.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.