The new Interstate 74 Bridge across the Mississippi River receives the credit for the changing landscape of a reimagined downtown Bettendorf.
However, a bridge of a different kind is a key to plans linking the present and future development surrounding the TBK Bank Sports Complex in north Bettendorf. City officials have proposed adding a new Pedestrian Bridge to Phase 3 of the ongoing Forest Grove Drive reconstruction project.
The “Ped Bridge,” as city officials call it, would be in addition to the estimated $11.5 million of road improvements already underway. The structure would span Middle Road and link TBK’s current sports facilities with a potential future expansion it is planning across the road to the east.
Preliminary plans of that development were approved in mid-November by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission also approved re-zoning the agricultural land between Forest Grove and Interstate 80 from A-1 to C-3 (General Business District). The council will vote Tuesday, Dec. 21, on final approval of the rezoning.
“We anticipate working with the developer after the holidays,” said Jeff Reiter, the city’s economic development director. “We haven’t really conceptualized what they want to do in the form of a development agreement yet. So, we have to kind of wait and follow their lead.”
He expects to have a proposed agreement for the city council to consider in January or February.
Opened in April 2018, the TBK Bank Sports Complex is a 75-acre facility featuring both indoor and outdoor fields, a two-story family entertainment center, banquet/meeting space, sports bar/restaurant and 1,571 parking spaces.
“We’ve got opportunities to grow across the street. We’ll know a little bit more on the reality of that probably in the next 45-60 days,” said Dave Stow, CEO of the sports complex.
“There’s just a lot of moving pieces, and once those fall into place, then we’ll know if that’s something that we as a company want to dive into or that (area) is just going to be expanded community around us…,” Mr. Stow said. “But there is some really neat stuff that could happen if things line up right.”
Among the next steps, Mr. Reiter said the city needs to update its Urban Renewal Plan to preview how the I-80/Middle Road interchange area is going to develop over the next 10-20 years.
Ped Bridge funding
Meanwhile, a $5.96 million federal aid award is paying for Phase 3 of the Forest Grove Drive reconstruction, with the city funding the remaining portion.
To finance the Pedestrian Bridge, Bettendorf is applying for a federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant of under $3 million. The city expects to submit the preliminary application today.
Mr. Reiter hopes for approval by early spring after the project is considered alongside other proposals across the six-state Midwest region.
“The EDA staff that we talked with and got some direction from said ‘You know this is a really big area and tourism draw, but we really need to funnel this down as far as what EDA is going to be specifically supporting.’ They immediately latched onto that Pedestrian Bridge is what they wanted to support,” Mr. Reiter added.
Forest Grove work
Along with the new walking bridge, Bettendorf also plans to add roundabouts at three key intersections in the reconstruction project: Forest Grove Drive and Middle Road; Middle and Competition Drive; and Forest Grove and Championship Drive.
The combination of the new bridge and roundabouts should help the traffic flow of vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles.
“When the Ped Bridge was conceptualized, it was obviously to provide a safe, offline, direct connection between the two properties with the assumption TBK would expand to the east,” said Brent Morlok, Bettendorf city engineer.
“But (it) also gives us a great opportunity to create that ‘Gateway into Bettendorf’ from the north we want with some really cool signage and a nice aesthetic feature,” he added.
The Forest Grove widening project began in 2015, prior to TBK’s opening. The current Phase 3 is part of a joint, federally-funded effort between Bettendorf and Davenport to upgrade Forest Grove and Veterans Memorial Parkway in both communities.
“Traffic out there on both Middle and Forest has pretty much doubled in the last three years,” Mr. Morlock said.
With the sports complex already attracting tens of thousands of visitors and continued commercial business development, Mr. Morlok said “We couldn’t just do Forest Grove. Because of TBK, we’re also having to rebuild Middle Road from just south of the I-80 off-ramp there, through the intersection and then down to that first farmhouse there.”
Mr. Morlok said the city is working through a final review of the Phase 3 plans by the Iowa Department of Transportation and expects approval by March or April with construction bids and work beginning immediately.
The hope is the roundabouts and street paving will be done in 2022, leaving landscaping and other final touches for early 2023.
New corridor identity
“TBK is so unique because of the multiple uses and the varying times that people are coming and going that traffic lights there are just incredibly difficult to time,” he said. “Most traffic lights have a rush hour in the morning and another peak hour in the afternoon. (With TBK), we see peaks all the time.”
“When we ran a full traffic study and evaluated whether we stick with traffic signals or roundabouts – the roundabouts proved to be the way to go,” Mr. Morlock said, adding they are documented to be safer and reduce accidents and the city’s traffic simulations show they will be more efficient.
Plus, the roundabouts “look cool,” lending a modern feel to the many landscaping, signage, and decorative extras planned, he added. “With TBK functioning like its own city, we’re really trying to create an identity out there.”
Mr. Morlok said the Ped Bridge also helps the city’s effort to extend recreation trails to and through the sports complex.
The “Gateway” signage planned will be a theme carried through at several entry points into Bettendorf in 2022, Mr. Reiter added. Welcoming signs will feature bold block-lettering back-lit by LED lights, akin to the style seen now at city hall.
“So, as you’re driving along Interstate 80 and you look there, it’s going to be a welcoming entry point into Bettendorf as you come into a sports complex and tourism region there,” Mr. Reiter said.