Dixon Riverfront: Capitalizing on the
It is often the case; the engineering is the easy part of the project. We know that it can be done, and we know how to do the numbers, but the getting to that point is the challenge. The Dixon, Illinois riverfront project known as Heritage Crossing is a perfect example of a project that fits well into the “getting started someday” role.
The Rock River cuts through the center of Dixon dividing the town into two parts (the north and south). The only connection provided is two bridge structures across the river. One structure maintained by IDOT carries Rte 2, 26, and US Rte 52 traffic. It is on the Lincoln Highway and is the main north south connecting road. This Galena Avenue Bridge carries the most traffic and has a history that goes well beyond this writing. The other bridge is the Peoria Avenue Structure two blocks to the west of Galena Avenue and is a city of Dixon’s structure to maintain.
It was in the mid 1990’s when IDOT looked at the Galena Bridge rating reports and expressed some concerns to the city that some major repairs are going to be necessary. The city had just received the results on the Peoria Avenue Bridge and led the discussion with IDOT, “our report looks worse than your report” and we need
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Assets of a Community to do something. Both the city of Dixon and IDOT did agree that it would not be good to have both structures under repair at the same time. Believe it or not this led to the most recent beginning of the Dixon Riverfront Heritage Crossing.
It was with the bridge coordination meetings with IDOT and the city that started the thought process for the today’s riverfront look. The bridge issues of traffic volumes, traffic pattern, downtown main street goals, community development, bike path routes, pedestrian walk ways, Lincoln highway history, and local concerned citizens input took center stage. This opened up discussions that could have been on the table for 50 years or more and never got anywhere. What the discussion did was bring forth a degree of planning that never had taken place. Over the years there had been a resultant shift in residential, retail, and recreational uses that had a profound effect on the downtown of Dixon and its status as a focal point for community, commerce, and civic identity.
Over the past two decades, there had been growing recognition of the value and potential of Dixon Riverfront, the important role it has played in the
past, and the vital role it can play in supporting future community development. The Dixon Riverfront Commission, a group of concerned citizens appointed by the city council was established as the result from IDOT discussions. This Commission worked on a variety of plans and studies to identify goals and opportunities for downtown and riverfront improvements. The overall objective was to use the Rock River as an asset to the city of Dixon. The development of the Dixon Riverfront Master plan was a new beginning after hours of citizens input.
The Dixon Riverfront Master plan addressed several opportunities that the city has with the Rock River. The master plan states that revitalization of the riverfront area in Dixon has the opportunity to make significant impacts on economic development in the riverfront corridor area over the long term.
One objective is to encourage proposals for change that improve the river corridor through high quality design and a respect for the environment while showcasing the heritage of the area.
The city of Dixon embarked on riverfront development with the “Heritage Crossing Plaza” in downtown Dixon, including construction of a bicycle / pedestrian path along the river’s edge and a park space. Access ramps, stairs, and seating areas are provided throughout the plaza to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
This creates a scenic, vehicle free route for trail users through a busy downtown area that crosses under two major highways and connects to a citywide trail system.
The engineering solutions used in this project illustrate valuable examples and ideas for managing the need for community gathering areas and facilities that enhance the path users experience while faced with restrictive site conditions. Several unique items were encountered in the design that required the effective application of existing or new techniques and sound engineering principles such as:
• Providing a plaza configuration that maximized the available useable area of the river bank while preserving the flood flow conveyance through the project limits determined by sound engineering hydraulic principles.
• Analysis and design of a lower path structural slab and elements subject to flood and ice flows to accommodate lower level traffic. Large tower bases for overhead electric power lines that were required to remain.
• Redesign of an urban street to a one-way configuration to accommodate parking areas and facilitate pedestrian traffic.
• Analysis and design of curved reinforced concrete retaining walls.
• Design of a roadway and streetscape that can function part time as a gathering area including
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