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Photo from Survey HAER WI-18. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Known as “the most beautiful bridge ever built in Racine,” the Sixth Street bridge holds great historical significance to the City of Racine.

You may have driven over it and enjoyed the beautiful mosaics but for those who use the river, they get to see the wonderful art deco/moderne style architecture, including terra cotta ornamentation and open arches.

In fact, the Library of Congress describes it as “one of Wisconsin’s most unusual and architecturally significant concrete bridges.” It opened on December 1, 1928, the work of the world-renowned architect, Charles S. Whitney. But it won’t be around for long as City officials consider a replacement.

Why the bridge needs addressing

Despite its significance, years of neglect have left it in a state of disrepair, an issue that the Common Council has yet again opted to take up. At the last Council meeting held May 7, members voted unanimously to pass a resolution to move forward with the $5.6 million dollar project. The City will be responsible for 20 percent of the costs, which totals around $1.3 million.

John Tate II, the alderman whose district the bridge is located in, described the project during the Council meeting as “a long time coming,” which is quite true. The project was first initiated in May of 2015. However, the price tag was significantly lower than its current price tag. In 2016, the cost of the project was set around $400,000 for the design and $2.2 million for construction.

Design by Ayers Associates

One issue that did come up in the 2016 public hearings was whether the bridge should be preserved and repaired or replaced. The City has always been on the side of replacement due to consultants at the time estimating it would cost an additional $1 million to preserve the historic structure. Members of Preservation Racine spoke up in 2016 against replacement citing its significance, one member referred to it as “one of the jewels of Racine.”

Racine County Eye has reached out to them for comment about the current resolution but has not yet received a response.

Replacing history

The replacement bridge — as designed by Ayers Associates — is set to mimic design features of the original structure.

There are still many questions surrounding the project. However, requests for comment and additional information from Alderman Tate II and City staff have yet to be addressed.

We’ll update the story when we receive more information. In the meantime, Tate told the Common Council last week: “It will be a long project but it will be a beautiful result when it’s all said and done.”