Supervisors approve pedestrian bridge over I-80


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Iowa City residents may soon have an easier time traveling to Cedar Rapids by bike.

As part of a county trails plan approved by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, a pedestrian bridge will be built over Interstate 80 to allow bikers and other travelers to ride toward Cedar Rapids via Dubuque Street.

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the project will more directly connect Cedar Rapids and Iowa City on trails or wide-paved road shoulders.

"There is a way to already ride [Dubuque Street], but it is pretty inconvenient," he said. "[The current] trail goes from Dubuque to Foster Road, and you have to travel all the way to Mackinaw Drive. Mackinaw takes you under the interstate."

Kris Ackerson, assistant transportation planner at the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County, helped develop the project. The Dubuque Street bridge, he said, will connect an Iowa City trail to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

"Having Iowa City linked with Cedar Valley Nature Trail will be a tremendous asset for Iowa City and also for the region as a recreation destination," he said.

Terry Dahms, a Johnson County Trails Advisory Committee member, said local officials will only need to add another five or six trail miles near Iowa City to have a full connection to Cedar Rapids once the Dubuque Street bridge is finished.

Construction on the bridge will begin shortly after July, though officials have yet to settle on who will build it, he said.

"Once they start on that bridge, they will have a pretty clear idea of how they will connect [to Cedar Rapids]," he said. "[The trail] goes all the way through Cedar Rapids. It's all done within the city limits of Ely through Waterloo."

Ackerson said the plan will also focus on the creation of new equestrian, snowmobile, and water trails across the county. Officials hope further promotion of the Iowa River as a recreation resource will bring more visitors to Iowa City to use the water trail, which extends from Ferry Park on the South Side of Iowa City to the Mississippi River, he said.

"We want to encourage more boating and kayaking," he said. "It's noteworthy that you can go 77 miles without encountering a dam."

Mark Wyatt, the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, said he would like the plan to help smaller Iowa cities receive more tourism money. While the bicycle industry can generate a lot of economic benefits, he said, long-term planning is important because of the environmental renovation necessary for trail development.

"It takes a lot of patience in trail-building. It takes a number of years and dollars to invest in this but it has a great return," he said. "I think it's a great step for the county."

Dahms said he is mostly excited about the connectivity between cities as a result of the plan, noting that the roughly 70-mile trail from Iowa City to Waterloo might be a fun challenge for bikers such as himself.

"For many it will be, like me, a dream come true to ride on a separated trail all the way from Iowa City to Waterloo," he said. "We are developing some very nice loops, however, for those who aren't quite so ambitious."

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