Janesville Bridge temporarily reopens Thursday, businesses still impacted

JANESVILLE, Wis (WMTV) -- Even with Wis-DOT plans to reopen the Milwaukee Street Bridge on the bridge on Thursday, at least temporarily. However, completion of the downtown Janesville bridge project delayed again, and it's slowing down business.

The bridge was originally supposed to be done this past summer, but now officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said the completion date is now spring of 2020.

A downtown bar owner said since the closure, he's doing his best to keep his doors open.

"Before the bridge was out we had pretty business for lunch it was pretty steady people coming in at night time," Kevin Riley, Riley’s Sports Bar and Grill owner said.

For nearly eight years, business was booming in Riley’s Sports Bar and Grill, but since the bridge closure, bar seats are empty more often than not.

"Everyone bypasses around us now instead of seeing us like they used to," Riley said.

Riley said since people can't cross the bridge, there isn't much traffic meaning less people walk through his doors, which created over a year of frustration.

"It's like alright let’s get this thing open so we can see business come back because we've definitely seen a decrease in business," he said.

"The lunch business is down for a number of restaurants on the other side of the river. A couple of other stores have seen a decrease in business activity," Gale Price, Janesville Economic Development Director said.

Mother Nature is to blame. Wisconsin DOT said the ongoing high water level of the Rock River means crews can’t work on forms underneath the bridge causing several delays.

Price said once the bridge completion project is finished, it will pump businesses back up and bolster activity downtown.

"You have to go through and do these investments to support the community and support the downtown," Price said.

Riley said he knows the bridge project is an important step in the evolution of the town square. He remains hopeful because short term pain equals long term gain.

"I'm pretty confident things will pick back up here shortly when the bridge does open back up," Riley said.