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UI grad students help redevelop Sutliff Bridge

BY KATIE HEINE | FEBRUARY 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Alicia Rosman likes to get her hands dirty.

The 24-year-old University of Iowa graduate student said college students are too often taught using hypothetical situations.

Rosman and three other graduate students in Urban and Regional Planning are participating in something real: revamping the area surrounding the historic Sutliff Bridge.

“As students, getting to stick our hands in something real is pretty cool,” Rosman said.

Spanning the Cedar River, the 113-year-old Sutliff Bridge is on of the longest and oldest Parker steel-truss bridges in the state.

After a portion of the bridge was destroyed in the 2008 floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted Johnson County $1.7 million to restore it. Construction will likely start this fall and be completed in the fall of 2012.



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In addition to the reconstruction of the bridge, Johnson County officials and members of the Sutliff Bridge Authority decided to re-evaluate the surrounding area.

“Not many people think about our area for recreation in Johnson County,” said Sarah Brannaman, the secretary of the Bridge Authority.

That’s where the UI students come in.

As a project for their growth-management class, the students will gather public input to determine what people would like to see in the area. Then they will develop and present possible scenarios to the Johnson County Conservation Board, complete with cost estimates.

“This is exactly how it happens in real life,” said Jerry Anthony, the associate professor overseeing the project.

In mid-March, the students will hold a public meeting to seek input. The project deals with real-life urban issues, Anthony said, and involves real clients, project demands, and applications.

“I am very confident in the students’ abilities and am excited to see what they produce,” said Anthony, who has been teaching the course for 10 years.

Johnson County officials oversee the students, but without much direction, said Rick Dvorak, he administrator of the Planning and Zoning Department.

“They don’t get any better knowledge than doing it themselves,” he said.

The Cedar River area already provides several amenities for boating, fishing, and hunting, Brannaman said.

The bridge is also sentimental for people in Johnson County, said Randy Brannaman, the president of the Bridge Authority, noting that many have celebrated weddings and birthdays there over the years.

“It’s kind of been a hole in everybody’s heart right now,” he said.

Though Johnson County has control of the bridge, the Bridge Authority continues to raise money for maintenance and preservation purposes.

Ultimately, residents said they want the Sutliff bridge area to remain a special place in the community.

Randy Sprostom, 48, grew up in the Sutliff area, and he and his wife owned the tavern next to the bridge, a favorite hangout for the local residents.

Today, Sprostom, who has since sold the bar to his brother-in-law, said he still loves Sutliff.

“It’s just an awesome place to be,” he said.


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