Supervisors approve bridge connection

BY KATIE HEINE | APRIL 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Two days after Iowa City city councilors completed plans to create a pedestrian trail for local bikers and runners along the Iowa River, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors said they were unaware a portion of the trail would consist of a sidewalk attached to a county-owned bridge.

“We were disappointed we weren’t part of the discussion,” said Supervisor Sally Stutsman, noting there were “ample opportunities” to inform the supervisors.

At their Thursday meeting, the supervisors approved the signing of an agreement with the city, allowing the city to build a pedestrian trail attached to the existing county-owned bridge.

Supervisors also voted unanimously to send a letter to City Council encouraging earlier communication for future projects. But supervisors said communication glitches weren’t detrimental by any means.

“It doesn’t undermine the value of the project,” Supervisor Janelle Rettig said.

The Butler Bridge spans the Iowa River north of the city’s water plant on Dubuque Street N.E. The Iowa River Corridor Trail is interrupted by the bridge and forces users to remain on a narrow shoulder, said City Councilor Regenia Bailey.

To make it more convenient, she said, a pedestrian trail will be cantilevered along the side of the bridge. But county officials said they were never informed about the city’s idea.

“It’s a great project,” Rettig said. “But the city of Iowa City never formally or informally talked to county about the fact that it would be cantilevered to the county’s bridge.”

The city has been working on the project for more than five years, and county officials have been included during the discussions, Bailey said.

“It’s interesting they wouldn’t be aware of this,” she said.

The projected cost for the project is around $1 million, said John Yapp, the executive director for the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County.

Iowa City recently received a $500,000 grant from federal transportation funds, he said, and the remaining funds will be matched by the city through local money. The project is expected to be completed this summer, Yapp said.

Once the supervisors found out county property was involved, they quickly created an agreement with Iowa City to determine maintenance responsibilities, Yapp said. The bridge and road will remain in control of the county and the attached pedestrian bridge will be in control of the city.

“We think this is a key trail system,” Yapp said.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the supervisors do not anticipate any problems with the plans, and he’s glad they’re collaborating with the city to improve the narrow bridge.

“It’s going to be a real fantastic thing,” he said.

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