Downtown Janesville parking plaza reopens
JANESVILLE About 51 parking spots in Janesville's downtown parking plaza reopened Wednesday after repairs to the plaza were finished.
Workers still are working on two additional spots that affect about two stalls each, but those should be open by the end of the week, said Carl Weber, city director of public works.
A total of 230 stalls will then be available.
Parking capacity on the plaza was 275 before engineers in August discovered girders supporting the concrete parking deck were deteriorating.
About 185 parking spots were open during repairs, but dead ends created by barricades made travel through the plaza difficult.
Now, three out of the five aisles are open, and travel should be much easier, Weber said.
Fixing the parking plaza caused city council debate. Several council members wanted to repair all 100 spots for a cost of about $175,000.
Other council members were reluctant. They noted that only about 40 percent of downtown parking is used.
The state Department of Natural Resources has told Janesville officials it is unlikely the agency would issue a permit for major reconstruction of the parking plaza.
A compromise to fix about 50 of the closed 100 spots was approved.
The council hopes the fix will extend the plaza's life for about four years, giving the city time to apply for grants to remove it and to plan for riverfront redevelopment and alternative parking.
City Manager Eric Levitt doubts whether the city can afford to tear down the plaza in the next four years, anyway.
Susan Josheff, supervisor of the DNR's Waterways and Wetlands Protection program, said Monday the agency supports the city's repair work.
"This will give the city some time to continue with its planning," Josheff said. "That parking plaza has lived its useful life."
Some downtown business owners want the plaza to stay.
Josheff said it would be impossible to do major repairs that would significantly extend the plaza's life, primarily because its concrete and metal infrastructure has deteriorated.
She said communities are reversing a decades-old trend of turning their backs on their waterways.
The DNR now looks at individual projects based on their water dependency.
"A bridge is water dependent because you need to get from one side of the river to the other," she said. "A parking plaza is not because there are other places it can be located."
The department considers public interest in approving projects over waterways. That includes navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and aesthetics.
"In terms of navigation, we've had staff overturn a boat with all the obstructions under the plaza," she said. "The constant shadowing affects habitat. Water quality is a little bit harder to define, but it's relatively safe to say that anything that comes out of a car above gets washed into the river.
"Aesthetics is defined as natural scenic beauty, and that's not there."
The city has spent more than $550,000 on plaza repairs since 2004.