Downtown Aurora Celebrates New Bridges with a Bash

Aurora – This past February, the City of Aurora held an event tagged the “Last Blast on the Bridge” that marked the beginning of the reconstruction of the Downer Place bridges that span the Fox River downtown. Now, to mark the official opening of the structures, Aurora is inviting the community to the “First Bash on the Bridge” ceremony slated for Dec. 12 at 3:30 p.m.

The event will feature Mayor Tom Weisner and other City, project, and business officials giving short presentations on the importance of the project to the downtown business district and community at large and explain how crews were able to complete the project in one construction season— the only major bridge rebuild in Aurora history in such a short amount of time.  The aggressive construction schedule reduced by several months the inconvenience to downtown businesses, patrons, and the community than would have been experienced in the past.

The program will also feature entertainment from the Waubonsie Valley High School Step Team as well as what officials are terming “a few surprises”.

After the official ribbon cutting, antique vehicles will be the first to travel the eastbound lanes of the bridge.  The ceremony will culminate with everyone attending being included in the recreation of an historic 1909 photo from the archives of the Aurora Historical Society showing hundreds of people on the original downtown bridge during a GAR Encampment.

A post-event reception will be held at the River Edge Café, 14 W. Downer.  The David L. Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer, will likewise be open and will feature Aurora Aglow, a pop up holiday shop. Parking will be available at the Stolp Avenue Parking Deck at Downer and Stolp.

Patrons attending the ceremony will also get their first look at the Downer Place streetscape project, which is aimed at enhancing the vitality of the downtown and reducing pollutants entering the Fox River. The project consists of the removal and replacement of the sidewalk and curb and gutter on both sides of Downer between the bridges.  Brick crosswalks have also been added.

Rain gardens are also being installed on the two south side corners of the Downer Place and Stolp Avenue intersection.  The rain gardens will remove pollutants from storm water by filtering the runoff through native plantings and engineered soils prior to finding its way into the Fox River.

The opening of the bridges signals the much anticipated traffic pattern changes in the downtown.  Both Downer Place and Benton Street, which has served as the detour route throughout the construction project, will permanently become two-way thoroughfares between Broadway Avenue (Route 25) and Lake Street (Route 31).

The changes also prompted the installation of traffic signal equipment at multiple intersections along Downer and Benton and four-way stop signs at the intersection of Downer and Stolp.

As part of scheduled changes involving downtown parking that will be implemented in 2013, parking meters along Benton and Downer between Broadway and Lake, will have been removed, and signage posted alerting downtown patrons that parking will be free on Downer and Benton for up to two hours through the end of this year.