STERLING – With the brand new First Avenue Bridge as a backdrop, Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday afternoon that the new span is symbolic of things to come for the state of Illinois.
“The bridge that connects the two communities is a very important metaphor for all of us,” Quinn said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the foot of the bridge in Rock Falls. “We have to be bridge builders in Illinois and America.”
The $27 million rebuild was completed a month ahead of schedule, officially opening Oct. 15. Freeport-based Civil Constructors began work on the project in mid-January.
Also in attendance Monday were Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider, state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, state Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and Rock Falls Mayor David Blanton.
More than 1,000 bridges have been built in the state in the last 3 years – this one in less than a year, Quinn said.
“They work hard, they get the job done on time, under budget, we’re very pleased with all of their commitment. We have to really celebrate the fact that this bridge will be a very key connector,” he said.
In a news release Sunday, Quinn said the project, paid in part with money from his Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, created or supported 350 jobs.
Investing in transportation and roads is key to improving the economy, he said Monday.
Schneider cited the sustainabilty of the project: The old bridge’s beams and piers were crushed and given to Rock Falls to use in developing the recreational area along the riverfront, she noted.
“We’re very excited about the fact that it also provides opportunities for pedestrian activity and for bicyclists in a safe manner to traverse that structure,” she said.
“This is more than just a bridge,” Lee said. “This is the impetus for us to get down to serious work here in Sterling-Rock Falls and get this area developed.
“All we need is this beautiful bridge to be a reminder that from that which is old and worn out can come things which are wonderful.”