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New bridge over Iowa River sparks hopes for development

BY NICOLE LUMBRERAS | OCTOBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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Today, Iowa City officials will unveil a new bridge over the Iowa River, bringing with it the possibility of development to the Southeast Side.

“Development follows transportation,” said Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey. “When transportation is enhanced or increased, business and residential development will grow.”

A dedication ceremony will officially open the McCollister Bridge and Boulevard at 2 p.m. today. It will connect Old Highway 218 to South Gilbert Street and will extend Mormon Trek Boulevard.

Many officials are excited about the bridge’s opening — the first in nearly 50 years.

Wendy Ford, Iowa City’s economic-development coordinator, thinks the bridge is a great connection and will make transportation more accessible in town.

“As the community grows, it is important to have efficient links. This will create a more fuel-efficient way to get from one side of the river to the other,” Ford said. “[The bridge] helps build an outer ring around the town; it’s more efficient for traffic.”

The overpass cost around $6 million dollars to build. Of that, $1 million came from city funds, and a federal earmark provided $5 million. Several Iowa lawmakers, including Rep. Dave Loebsack, helped appropriate the money for the three-year project, which employed hundreds of workers.

Officials say the new bridge will ease truck traffic in town and help businesses near Sycamore Street, South Gilbert Street, and Keokuk Street. Now, most drivers have to go into town to cross the river.

This bridge is another option for them.

The construction will take pressure off Highway 6 — the most-traveled bridge, said Jeff Davidson, a community-development planner.

“It’s a beautiful bridge … nice, safe, and attractive. We are really looking forward to it,” he said.

The early development of the bridge started during the 2008 flood, slowing construction, said Carol Sweeting, Iowa City’s Public Works public-information coordinator. But considerations, such as being at least 7 feet above the 2008 flood levels, will keep the overpass safe.

Many companies were involved in the construction of the bridge, including Peterson Contractors Inc. and Howard R. Green Company.

The bridge will also serve as a place for people to walk and enjoy the scenery.

“There are walkways on both sides and places for people to sit and watch the wildlife out there,” Sweeting said. “It will be a destination place for people.”

The road from the bridge ends right in front of Mike Lehman’s fence, where the Lehman family has lived since 1960. He said the bridge will help with his grain deliveries.

But despite the bridge’s benefits, with increased traffic comes obstacles — like moving farm equipment.

“We have to choose when because of the traffic,” Lehman said.


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