Beginning today, ‘catch lighting magic’ on Interstate 74 bridge

At last, travelers who cross the Interstate 74 bridge between Bettendorf and Moline will be treated to a light show from dusk to dawn each day. 

“Contractors have installed all the lighting components and staff at the cites of Bettendorf and Moline have been trained to create and operate dramatic new lighting scenes,” the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation (IDOTs) reported in a posting via “We have no doubt you’ll be thrilled with the results!”

Before the switch was flipped, the IDOTs said the project team ran through lighting scenes and colors to ensure barge captains could safely navigate through the channel under the long-awaited new I-74 bridge, which opened to great fanfare on Dec. 1, 2021.

That’s when both spans were fully opened to traffic. It took longer to finish the bike path and pedestrian trail, which features a unique window looking down on the river below. The path opened Wednesday, April 27, with the official ribbon cutting being held May 18

The complex lighting system that offers 26 different lighting scenes has taken a bit longer. Besides delays in getting the components necessary to make the lighting work, the two spans couldn’t safely be lit continuously until they were properly connected, George Ryan, I-74 Bridge corridor manager, told the QCBJ in late spring. The connection was necessary so the lights on both spans could be shut off instantly and remotely when there are unexpected safety concerns.

Safety also is the reason that for the next 30 days, the project team will run through lighting scenes and colors to ensure that barges can safely navigate the Mississippi River channel, an important segment of the grain superhighway.

“The U.S. Coast Guard will collect feedback from the barge captains and the project team will review and adjust the lighting intensity if necessary,” the IDOTs said in a news release.

“This also is a unique opportunity for the public to catch the (lighting) magic!  Whether you choose to drive over the bridge, walk the new bike and pedestrian path, or view the bridge from the riverfront, you’ll get a fantastic view of the gorgeous lighting on the new I-74 River Bridge,” transportation leaders promised.

The lighting is one more step toward the bridge’s completion. Also recently, Moline completed demolition of the land-based approaches and exits to the old Interstate 74 bridges. The sites have been cleared for future development and to beautify the area ahead of the Moline 150 party scheduled for August. 

Bettendorf earlier demolished its landside approaches and cleared the sites under and around the new bridge. But Bettendorf is continuing road work on State Street.

Meanwhile, separate contracts are expected to be let later this year for installation of two cargo-sized elevators that will take I-74 pedestrian and bike path users from the bridge to the Bettendorf trails below, and to demolish the main sections of the twin spans over the river, which still sit in the shadow of the one-of-a-kind new bridge.

The unique structure also is getting noticed around the country. Earlier this month, the unique basket handled structure received a National Award in the Major Span category of the 2022 Prize Bridge Awards, presented by the American Institute of Steel Construction and the National Steel Bridge Alliance.

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