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Local Editorials

Bridge built; Quinn visits; smiles aplenty

Many happy faces accompanied this week’s dedication of the First Avenue Bridge. We’re glad that Gov. Pat Quinn came to add his stamp of approval. Governor, don’t be a stranger

If you build it, he will come.

This year, a $27 million bridge was built between Sterling and Rock Falls.

Sure enough, Gov. Pat Quinn came to the Twin Cities Monday to help dedicate it.

As well he should have.

More than 3 years ago, Quinn signed a capital construction bill that gave the state the resources it needed to begin fixing its crumbling transportation infrastructure. You’ll recall that no capital bill had been passed in the previous 10 years, and across the state, it showed.

Money from that program helped to finance the First Avenue Bridge reconstruction project – one of hundreds needed across the state.

“We’ve built over 1,000 bridges in the last 3 years,” Quinn told dignitaries and the public who assembled at Rock Falls’ Bowman Park.

With the new bridge visible in the background, the governor called on Illinoisans and Americans to continue to be “bridge builders,” particularly after a divisive election campaign.

And what a bridge it is.

“This is a great bridge,” Quinn said. “It allows for bicycling and pedestrians. It’s 21st century safe, and I think we have to do that over and over again in Illinois, and this is a good model for other communities across the state to understand how we have to invest in our bridges.”

Quinn also praised Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and Rock Falls Mayor David Blanton.

“I really like the fact that Sterling and Rock Falls worked together – one community, two cities – and so, I was really moved by that, and I wanted to come and celebrate with everybody,” he said.

Left out of the public comments was the fact that Sterling owns the bridge, and Rock Falls city officials declined Sterling’s invitation to help pay for its reconstruction.

But at this point, that’s water under the bridge (pun intended).

Blanton remarked, “It’s going to be a great asset for both cities.”

Lee was a bit more effusive: “This is more than just a bridge. This is the impetus for us to get down to serious work here in Sterling-Rock Falls and get this area developed. We’ve been through some tough times, but 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. I look forward to many, many more projects in the future.”

Quinn, who doesn’t make it a habit to visit Sterling-Rock Falls, had one more turn at the microphone.

“I think what Mayor Lee just said is really important. Human beings want to live and work near water and the Rock River, a mighty river, a very important river, and we want to make sure the bridges over the river are safe. …

“We have work to do. We have to keep investing if we’re going to be a strong state. ...

“So we’re right here in Sterling-Rock Falls to say we’re going forward. We, the people, we’re going to keep on building bridges and roads and make Illinois a better place.”

State Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, who went through two other bridge rebuilds in Dixon, praised the cities for their cooperation and patience, as well as Civil Construction, the contractors and workers.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic structure. It looks absolutely beautiful at night,” he said.

People who have driven across since the bridge’s Oct. 15 opening would heartily agree.

We add our praise for the builders, the state and the municipalities. Nice job, one and all.

We hope the bridge is a symbol for how the cities can work more closely together.

And to Gov. Quinn, we say, Don’t be a stranger. One new bridge does not the entire Sauk Valley make. Come back and see what else we have.

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