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I-74 bridge elevator now a go after Bettendorf wins waiver
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I-74 bridge elevator now a go after Bettendorf wins waiver

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This rendered image is a concept plan for an elevator from Bettendorf's planned park to the I-74 walkway.

The elevator from the new Interstate 74 bridge to the riverfront trail in Bettendorf now is a go.

City and Iowa Department of Transportation officials have been notified by the Federal Highway Administration that their Buy America waiver has been approved for the elevators.

The Buy America provision requires most steel, parts and components that are part of the entire $1.2 billion I-74 bridge project be made in the U.S.

Last year, Bettendorf and the DOT learned that some of the parts needed for the $2.2 million letdown structure on the downstream side of the Illinois-bound span are not made in the U.S. Without the waiver, officials estimated, custom-made elevators would cost about twice their budgeted $427,000 and would add considerable delays to the project.

The elevators are important to Bettendorf's plans for providing access from the new pedestrian and bicycle lane on the nearly completed eastbound span to the riverfront trails below.

The wait for the waiver has set the project back by at least six months.

"It will happen; that is the key," City Administrator Decker Ploehn said Tuesday. "I think it will be a wonderful addition."

He estimated the elevators will be finished around the spring of 2023.

George Ryan, I-74 corridor manager, said the target was a reasonable one, but the completion date would rely on the contract-letting date, which is pending.

"It's definitely great news the waiver was approved," he said. "Now that we've got it, we're just getting the logistics down. We have several projects yet to let."

Ploehn said he had been trying to contact federal officials for more than a year, hoping to get movement on the waiver decision, which was an administrative decision by the Federal Highway Administration.

Changes in federal leadership led to a delayed response, he said.

Now uncertain is the updated cost of the elevators. Bettendorf budgeted about $427,000, but Ryan said the project will have to be repriced.

The two side-by-side elevator cars are to be of commercial size, so they can accommodate multiple people and bicycles.

While the elevators are not essential, the distance to the riverfront paths without them could be challenging for many.

"The bike and pedestrian path on the bridge meets ADA requirements as it allows pedestrians to access the path via the on-ramp at Grant Street," Ryan said earlier this year. "However, the elevator would provide a much easier, more-direct route from the trail along the Bettendorf riverfront and further the city’s efforts to enhance ADA access to and from the bridge."

Few interstate bridges in the U.S. have bike access; the estimate is fewer than two dozen. And having an elevator connected to an interstate bridge is even more unique.

The access is important to Bettendorf's 5-acre urban-park plan, which will have walkways under the bridge, connecting to the Mississippi River Trail system. 

Currently estimated at $6.2 million, the urban-park price tag also is subject to change, depending on related bids that will be sent out in the spring, including landscaping. 

On the Illinois side of the bridge, the elevation, roadway and trail configurations are such that the bike and pedestrian path on the bridge will meet the trails without need for a letdown structure.


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