Iowa City officials approve Gateway design


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The Iowa City City Council moved forward on design parameters for the Gateway Project at Tuesday’s meeting, taking an important step in a project more than five years in the making,
The project was approved by a 6-0 vote, with Councilor Terry Dickens absent.

“The vote this evening represents an important step forward,” Mayor Matt Hayek said. “[But] there’s a lot ahead of us. This is one of the biggest public-works projects [the city has ever undertaken].”

The approved design will elevate a portion of Dubuque Street to the height of a 100-year plus 1 foot and redesign the Park Street bridge to the height of a 200-year plus 1 foot, with a through-arch design. The total cost of the project will be more than $40 million.

The chosen design creates the best balance between cost and benefit, Councilor Susan Mims said.

“I think when you look at the difference in the cost, the difference in the environmental impact … to me that’s giving us the best bang for our buck,” she said. “That is the best balance, and doing any more than that, we’re doing more damage than it’s worth.”

The Gateway project has been in the works since 2008, shortly after the devastating flood took place. Over the past year, the council has held several public input meetings, as well as discussion at council meetings.

The discussion at these public input meetings raised concerns from some citizens about the impact of rqaising Dubuque Street, as well as the cost of the project.

Joe Coulter, owner of the Jacobsen-Coulter House on Dubuque Street, said he is content with the council’s decision, though he had some concerns earlier in the process.

The other proposed design parameters included raising Dubuque Street to the height of 200 plus 1 and using a deck girder design for the Park Road Bridge. Hayek said the additional protection of a higher Dubuque Street wouldn’t be enough to offset the aesthetic impact of a higher road.

“This is a postcard view in a sense,” he said. “While the 200 does afford you a little bit of extra protection [on a few days each year] … you’re living with that visual and aesthetic impact the rest of the time. It’s that visual impact that I think outweighs the marginal gains we have.”

Councilor Jim Throgmorton shared Hayek’s concern with the aesthetics of the final project, specifically in relation to the Park Road bridge. The through-arch design was more pleasing to the eyes than the deck girder, he said.

“It’s the major entryway to Iowa City,” he said. “It’s important to have a bridge that enhances the entryway [aesthetically].”

Mims agreed the through arch was a better design for the bridge, though it is about $3 million more expensive than the other option. The aesthetic and flood protection benefits outweigh the cost, she said.

The council will hold a pre-design meeting in late February, a discussion of roadway issues at a meeting on March 25, and discussion of landscaping and aesthetics in early May.

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