The DOT says the best I-80 realignment plan will be chosen without taking the Bison Bridge proposal into consideration. But that doesn’t rule it out.

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The new I-80 bridge between LeClaire and Rapids City will be rebuilt in one of seven ways, including one alternative that would move traffic off the current bridge for four years of detours.

Officials from the Illinois and Iowa departments of transportation and their engineering consultants from Parsons Transportation Group conducted a public-information session Wednesday that disclosed the seven realignment options being considered for the Quad-Cities’ third crossing over the Mississippi River.

The I-80 bridge is outdated, increasingly costly to maintain, has a high number of crashes and was designed well below current standards when it was built in 1967. A recording of Wednesday’s webinar is to be available Thursday at I80mississippibridge.com, which is a site devoted to the project.

While many questions for the eight panelists on the webinar were related to the proposed reuse of I-80, dubbed Bison Bridge, they said the state-park concept is a non-starter regarding the bridge realignment.

Current and ongoing studies of the best realignment for the bridge take the environment into consideration — human, plant and animal — but the ultimate decision will be based on meeting transportation needs, not future reuses.

"We’re certainly aware of the Bison Bridge concept, and we know there’s a lot of interest in that," said Becky Marruffo, of the Illinois DOT. "There cannot be any undue outside influence … on the purpose and need of the project."

Chad Pregracke, Quad-City environmentalist and founder of Living Lands & Waters, has considerable support in his concept for turning the vacant bridge into a two-state state park. One span of the crossing would be turned into a pedestrian and bike path and the other would become a crossing for bison, which would have roaming range on either side.

A Chicago-based structural engineering firm will lead the inspections and design for the Bis…

None of the seven alternatives now being studied takes the idea into consideration. If the first alternative is selected, Bison Bridge could not happen, because the new bridge would be built at the same location as the current one, which would have to be razed.

Under the first alternative, bridge traffic would be detoured to the Interstates 74 and 280 crossings for four years, the panelists said. That would allow time to tear down the current bridge and build a new one.

Following are the other six alternatives being considered. The final choice is to be disclosed next year, and all of the options include a six-lane crossing, including exit lanes.

Alternative two: Build the new bridge about 50 feet to the east, or upstream, of the current bridge. This would create a minimum impact on private properties.

Alternative three: Build the new bridge about 50 feet west of the existing span, or downstream. It would require the acquisition of about six additional acres of right-of-way.

Alternatives four and five: Build two side-by-side companion bridges about 20 feet east or west of the current span. Traffic would be routed to the first completed span, then the second would be built.

Alternative six: A new bridge would be built about 600 feet east of the current one. It would be structurally complex, due to a "skew" in the alignment. It also would require the relocation of 15 private properties.

Alternative seven: Built 2,100 feet west of the current bridge, the curves in the current alignment would be removed, and considerably more roadway would be replaced. It also would take 128 acres of farmland and require 53 private properties be relocated.

Alternatives six and seven have the greatest impact on private properties, but they also would be the easiest to construct, the panelists said.

The cost of the project has not yet been determined for any of the alternatives because the chief focus in selecting a location is its impact on people, land and wildlife.

Meeting facilitator Tracy Morse said more than 650 people registered for the informational meeting and question-and-answer session. It was the second public meeting related to the new bridge, and another will be announced later this year.

The project area contains about six miles — from the Interstate 88 interchange in Illinois to southwest 35th Street in Iowa. The current study also includes four alternatives for improving the cloverleaf interchange at I-80 and I-88.

Asked whether a new interchange at 35th Street could be achieved to reduce semi-truck traffic in LeClaire, the panelists said it is not possible because the area does not contain enough space.

Speakers also were asked whether a multi-use path will be included to deliver bicycles and pedestrians to existing or future recreation paths on either side, and they said the matter needs more input and has not yet been determined.

Early in the presentation, Tony Pakeltis, of Parsons, addressed the Bison Bridge matter, saying, "It’s too early to speculate on the ability to reuse the bridge."

Not only is the structure’s reuse not considered in the relocation study, he said, but many agencies and many factors must be considered before a reuse is possible, including impacts on river navigation, the environment and long-term maintenance.

And the multitude of involved agencies would include US Fish & Wildlife, the US Coast Guard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, federal highway officials and both states’ departments of transportation.

Pregracke has said his team with the Bison Bridge Foundation has studied and continue to study all aspects of the proposed reuse, which would be privately funded. While the group has not started fundraising, the Bison Bridge Foundation last week received a $4 million donation from an individual and his family foundation, which are keen on attractions related to the Mississippi River.

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via The Quad-City Times

May 11, 2022 at 11:03PM

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