Public responds to Gateway Project


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The return of a15-foot ruler that nearly reached the ceiling put the “extreme option” of a hotly contested area street project into perspective for one Iowa City resident.

The symbol, Steve Tannen said, acts as a representation of the elevation of heavily traveled North Dubuque Street could reach as a part of the multimillion-dollar Gateway Project.

As citizens lined up to voice their opinions on the now roughly $45 million flood-mitigation project Tuesday evening, the Iowa City city councilors listened intently.

Elevating Dubuque Street, as well as replacing the aging Park Road bridge with a structure that is longer and higher, stand as just two prongs of the controversial project.

“Let’s make a gorgeous bridge that impacts minimally the environments so we could put it on a post card,” Tannen said. “Let’s do something we can be proud of, not a 15-foot elevated highway at that bridge.”

Currently, three designs have been presented to aid in flood-prevention efforts: a deck girder bridge at 200 plus 1 foot; a through arch at 200 plus 1 foot; and a deck girder bridge at 500 plus 1 foot, as the preferred alternative for the worst-case scenario.

The bridge options, to date, are priced at $35.01 million, $38.31 million, and $36.65 million, respectively, in addition to a soft cost of design valued at $8 million.

Rick Fosse, the city’s director of Public Works, said the deck girder is more economical, but the bridge is thicker and would not work favor of the city’s issues.

City councilors and city officials continually iterated no formal action would be taken at Tuesday’s meeting.

However as bridge design plans are being narrowed down, confusion and opposition to elevating Dubuque Street are still a concern with some city councilors.

“I think, for me at least, I don’t necessarily know the full horizontal impact,” City Councilor Susan Mims said in regards to the street elevation’s effect on trees and vegetation. “Until I can see what it’s really doing horizontally, I don’t know what elevation I’m comfortable with.”

As the project transitions from the environmental assessment phase to the design phase, and fundamental design parameters are being established, the more-than-five-years-in-the-making project has had several public discussions as well as two meetings with the City Council.

And while vocal dissent was present, many individuals also expressed their approval of how the council is dealing with the initiative, including a representative from the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re very appreciative that you are taking the next steps to move forward with this project; we understand that you are still in the initial stages, that you are still looking at bridge type and composition, but we appreciate that you are moving down this path,” said Rebecca Neades, the vice president of public policy for the Chamber of Commerce.

Still, some citizens are still opposed the current design options, which since April have increased in price from $33 million to $40 million to a now targeted $44 million to $45 million. 

“I’m against raising Dubuque Street; I think there’s some other ways to go about it, because I know you are presented with four different options, there’s a fifth option here: none of the above,” Iowa City resident Derek Dallmen said.

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