New I-80 bridge in 10 years? No decisions have been made about the Quad-Cities span
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New I-80 bridge in 10 years? No decisions have been made about the Quad-Cities span

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Although no decision has been made, wheels are in motion to build a new Interstate 80 bridge over the Mississippi River within the next 10 years, if not sooner.

At an online meeting Wednesday, representatives of the Illinois and Iowa departments of transportation gave an overview a preliminary study underway about the problems and needs of a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 80 that includes the bridge. They were joined by representatives of Parson Transportation Group, a California-based civil engineering firm that is one of five consultants hired to help.

Another purpose of the meeting that lasted nearly two hours and was attended by 500 people was to answer questions and collect opinions and concerns that will figure into a final report of this phase of the study. That report is due at the end of 2020.

The bridge, which opened in 1966, does not meet current design standards because of its narrow shoulders, and traffic volume is expected to increase by 20% by 2045 — from 39,600 vehicles per day to 47,400. Despite this, no-build alternatives also will be considered, the planners said.

The study area is a nine-mile stretch of the interstate from just east of the Middle Road interchange in Iowa to the Interstate 88 interchange in Illinois. Modifying the interchanges with I-88, Middle Road, U.S. 67 and Illinois 84 will be considered, as will adding lanes to I-80.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has adopted a six-year budget that extends through 2025 and contemplates funding for the project, the department's Becky Marruffo said. The Illinois DOT is leading this study.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has a five-year budget with the next five-year plan being drafted now for publication in June, Sam Shea, of the Iowa DOT, said.

"I am somewhat confident (continued planning for a new bridge) will be in there," he said.

The one wild card in the timeline is the environmental impact study of the nine-mile stretch; that is, the likely impact on creatures (fish, turtles, eagles, mussels, bats) as well as streams, cultural landmarks, public parks, prime farmland, wetlands and the 100-year flood plain.

Environmental studies take as long as they take, Marruffo said.

Both Shea and Marruffo said they hope the building of a new I-80 bridge — if that is what is decided — doesn't drag out as long as I-74 has.

"If funding is allocated, we would try to expedite the process, limiting the escalation of cost with inflation," Marruffo said.

Both also stressed that this study is different from a separate I-80 study being conducted by the Iowa DOT on the stretch of highway between Interstate-280 and the Mississippi River and whether that stretch should be widened.

Although separate, officials are coordinating efforts so as not to duplicate work, they said.

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