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Gateway project will affect UI

BY DANIEL SEIDL | FEBRUARY 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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After more than five years of planning, the Gateway project is finally coming to fruition, and it will have a massive effect on the University of Iowa.

The project will serve to create an attractive opening into Iowa City and the UI, said Iowa City City Councilor Jim Throgmorton.

“I think of it as the primary and most attractive gateway to downtown Iowa City and to the core of the university,” he said. “What we’re doing there is very important, both to the city and to the university.”

The Gateway project has been in the works since shortly after the flood of 2008. The project will elevate a portion of Dubuque Street and redesign Park Road bridge to help guard against the risk of flooding in the area. The council approved design parameters for the project last month, setting the road to be raised to the 100-year plus 1 foot height and the bridge to be 200-year plus 1, with a through-arch design.

The total cost of the project will be more than $40 million.

Improving the bridge is especially important and needs to be done as soon as possible, said UI President Sally Mason.

“So, the sooner we get on with this project and get it done, the better off we’re all going to be: the better off the city’s going to be, and certainly the better off the university’s going to be,”  she said in a previous interview with *The Daily Iowan*. “I’m glad to hear that it’s moving along in the right direction.”

The UI has been working closely with the city throughout the design of the project, said Rod Lehnertz, the UI Facilities Management director of planning, design, and construction.

“We’ve stayed abreast throughout all the developments of the design,” he said.  “The facilities that are affected, which would be the Mayflower  and the boathouse, are both being accounted for.”

One potential concern the project will cause for the UI is the issue of traffic, especially during construction, said Councilor Terry Dickens.

“During construction, it will cause some problems,” he said. “Traffic will slow down quite a bit.”

Though the construction may create some problems, it will be well worth it in the end to provide additional flood protection to the area, Throgmorton said.

“It’s especially important given the large investment that the university is making at the new Hancher Auditorium and given the large number of students and others who reside at Mayflower,” he said.

The height the council chose for the street, as well as the bridge, are the most effective in protecting the UI’s investment in Hancher while having minimal effect on the environment, Dickens said.

The bridge, with its new height, will provide better backwater reduction to the area, which Mason said is of key importance to the UI.

“Having been here through the flood and watching water go over the Park Road bridge and watching tons and tons of debris back up against Park Road bridge and knowing if that bridge were to collapse, we would have been absolutely destroyed,” she said.  “It’s just too devastating to think about.”

Lehnertz agreed the bridge was of utmost importance to the UI.

“The bridge itself is a needed project,” he said. “Elevating the underside of the bridge is a good thing, I think, for everyone involved,”

Though the functional application of the bridge is very important to the UI, aesthetics will not be sacrificed, Lehnertz said.

“When its finished, people will see that it will be a good addition … both functionally and visually,” he said.


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