Illinois House seeks plan to redevelop I-80 Bridge for Bison Bridge

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A bipartisan House Resolution urges the Illinois Governor and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to develop plans for the new I-80 bridge that includes incorporation of the Bison Bridge project.

House Resolution 0699 is sponsored by state Reps. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island), Tony McCombie (R-Savanna), Ryan Spain (R-Peoria), Dan Swanson (R-Woodhull), Norrine Hammond (R-Macomb) and House Transportation Committee Chairperson Martin J. Moylan (D-Des Plaines). 

The resolution is scheduled for a hearing before the Illinois House Transportation Committee on Tuesday March 22nd at 3 p.m. 

As plans proceed to replace the I-80 bridge, supporters of Bison Bridge want to recycle and redevelop the old bridge between LeClaire and Rapids City.

Since March 2021, when the Bison Bridge Foundation announced their proposal, the organization has gained support for the project from stakeholders around the region, including lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, according to a Monday release.

Matthew Hughes, a transportation consultant in the State of Illinois who is part of the Bison Bridge Foundation, said: “The Bison Bridge Foundation would like to thank this bipartisan group of sponsors for their continued support of what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remake the identity of the Quad Cities region.”

The Bison Bridge Foundation has always maintained that all of the funding to develop their proposal will be privately financed. While demolishing the current structure would come at great cost to local taxpayers, the Bison Bridge project will be developed without the requirement of taxpayer funds, the release says.

The organization hopes the project will provide an opportunity for investment. As Illinois, and the Midwest in general, continues to battle population loss and struggles to retain young professional talent, investments in placemaking and quality of life are a priority for regional leaders. 

Completed in 1966, the four-lane Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge carries over 42,000 vehicles a day on I-80.

The benefits of the Bison Bridge proposal go far beyond placemaking and quality of life, the release says. The team has stressed that the economic development potential is unlimited on both sides of the Mississippi River.

The pedestrian side of the Bison Bridge will provide unique access to the river as well as the mixed-use paths on the Iowa and Illinois sides for cyclists, walkers, runners, and visitors to the QC. Environmental benefits include avoiding the demolition and disposal of the existing structure and providing a wildlife crossing corridor planted with native vegetation.

A home for the bison to roam

The team’s incorporation of bison will provide the chance to understand the history and Native culture of the region, the importance of the river, and the legacy of the prairie. The bridge park will provide opportunities for families, groups, and businesses to meet, learn, and discover more about the QC. Finally, proponents of the project envision a future influx of tourists and visitors to the region.

Some 38,000 people in the community have signed the Bison Bridge Foundation’s petition to support the project. Lawmakers from both Illinois and Iowa have voiced their support and local stakeholder groups continue to promote the proposal.

Hughes and the Bison Bridge Foundation team are hopeful that the Bison Bridge will become part of the region’s recovery from COVID.

“As we look to the state of Illinois to change its way of doing business in so many ways, our proposal represents an opportunity for Illinois to do so. The old way of doing things, i.e. tearing out and disposing of the existing I-80 bridge structure, simply doesn’t make sense from an economic, cultural, environmental and even a practical standpoint,” Hughes said Monday.

Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters, has led the collection of private funding and 38,000 online petition supporters for Bison Bridge.

Chad Pregracke, a QC native who founded Living Lands & Waters, is spearheading the project and leading the Bison Bridge team.

His home is about a mile from the current I-80 bridge, and he has long hoped to see the area around the bridge on each side of the river become a place for visitors to share his love of the Mississippi.

“Thank you to the Representatives who stepped up to sponsor this resolution as a way of showing support for thinking ‘outside the box’ and doing things differently in Illinois," Pregracke said in the release. "Also, thank you to the tens of thousands of supporters who have signed our petition to support the project, who anxiously await an opportunity to lend their voices to the decision-making process about to get underway."

For more information, visit the Bison Bridge website.

City: Quad Cities,Feeds,News,QC,Northern,Region: QC

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March 21, 2022 at 01:43PM

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