$6M Bridge Creates New IC Arterial7/13/2009
New Iowa City roadway over Iowa River nearly done
from the Cedar Rapids Gazette
A project unlike any seen in Iowa City in nearly a half-century is quietly nearing completion. Workers are putting the finishing touches on a bridge that will be the first new roadway over the Iowa River in Iowa City since the early 1960s. McCollister Bridge, expected to open in September, will span the river on the southern edge of town between Gilbert Street and Riverside Drive. The area is largely undeveloped, so the project, despite its significance, has been flying under the radar since construction began in March 2008.
“We talk about that quite a bit,” said Brian Boelk, the city’s senior civil engineer. “It’s off the beaten path, and you really can’t see it from any existing road that you travel.” That should change in the coming years. The south side of town is marked for growth, which is a major reason the bridge is being built.
The bridge is part of a broader plan to connect Scott Boulevard on the east side of town with Mormon Trek Boulevard on the west. The new east-west arterial will be known as McCollister Boulevard, which gives the bridge its name. McCollister Boulevard is expected to provide relief to Highway 6, which city officials said was the last new roadway over the river. Highway 6 is handling about as much traffic as it can, including 36,000 vehicles a day near its bridge, said Jeff Davidson, the city’s planning and community development director. The western portion of the road is mostly done. Construction of the eastern stretch will occur as the area develops, which city officials hope will pick up when the economy improves.
“South Iowa City is ready to develop,” Davidson said. “It’s got the sewer. It’s got the water. ... Once it has this road, it will literally have everything for property owners to develop down there.” The expansion of McCollister Boulevard will make travel much more convenient in the area and should spur even more development, said Jill Marshek, a broker manager with Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors.
“They go where there’s growth opportunities,” she said. Her company has sold 20 lots and has five remaining in a housing development where McCollister dead-ends just east of the bridge. McCollister Bridge is 396 feet long and made of precast concrete. It will have two lanes of traffic, with the ability to expand to four. It also will have two wide walkways and four sections that jut out for people to get a better view of the river.
The project is expected to cost a little more than $6 million, including roadway leading up to the bridge, Boelk said. The federal government is picking up $5 million of the tab, he said. The bridge is largely completed, with work on the sidewalks and aesthetic features like lighting left to do, Boelk said.
The city’s bridges got attention during last year’s flood, with some closed and the rest threatened by the river. The lowest point of the McCollister Bridge deck is about seven feet above the 2008 flood level, Boelk said.