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Burlington pedestrian bridge still closed

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | AUGUST 20, 2009 7:05 AM

Because its renovation work has been delayed, the Burlington Street pedestrian bridge will not carry people over Riverside Drive during the first two weeks of class.

Instead, city officials have set up a temporary crosswalk at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Burlington Street, said Denny Gannon, an Iowa City assistant city engineer.

On Wednesday afternoon, vehicles honked and sped past while passersby waited for several minutes for their turn to cross, avoiding splashes from cars hitting nearby puddles from the midday rain.

Some students, including UI freshman Austin Henecke, didn’t have as much trouble crossing Riverside Drive.

“It is not a huge deal other than avoiding the big puddle,” he said.

But while walking across Riverside Drive with her husband, Barbara Buss said she was concerned about the turning traffic.

“I was a little apprehensive about crossing Riverside at first,” she said. “Drivers just aren’t used to a crosswalk on this side of the road.”

City officials are also working to inform people about alternative routes and transportation methods.

In order to ensure safety and avoid congestion in the Burlington Street and Riverside Drive intersection, Gannon said he has asked University Housing officials to notify the university community about the construction.

He advised people use the Iowa Avenue bridge or Cambus to cross the river. A popular link to Kinnick Stadium, the pedestrian-bridge project is expected to be complete by Sept. 4, the day before the first home football game.

Greg Thompson, the manager of Residence Life operations, said he has not yet received a formal announcement.

Some students seemed unaware of any notice about taking an alternative route.

“I haven’t heard of any announcement at the dorms,” said Henecke, a Rienow resident.

Built in 1968, the bridge developed problems with age. Parts of the underside had fallen and the concrete deck showed signs of distress, Gannon said.

The handrails of the bridge posed another safety concern. The old handrails had large gaps, a potential danger for children or pets. The new handrails will narrow the gaps with more vertical supports.

Repairs on the bridge — its first major renovation project — began on June 1. Officials initially hoped construction would be finished before classes started and the number of student residents skyrocketed.

Bad weather and the spiral shape of the bridge slowed construction, Gannon said. It takes time to make the handrails, and officials have their “fingers crossed” for a quick completion, he said.


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