Bison Bridge Foundation urges turnout for DOT virtual meeting

Transportation officials to outline I-80 bridge plans 

Interstate 80 bridge
During an online public meeting to discuss plans for a new Interstate 80 Mississippi River Bridge, the Illinois and Iowa Departments of Transportation jointly shot down the novel idea of repurposing the existing Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge into a multi-use path and nature conservatory featuring a herd of bison. CREDIT JOHN SCHULTZ

The Bison Bridge Foundation and its founder Chad Pregracke are putting out a call to action for supporters and Interstate 80 bridge enthusiasts to attend a virtual public meeting this week on the future of the Mississippi River crossing. 

In a news release Monday, Nov. 13, the foundation urged supporters of the proposed Bison Bridge to join a virtual meeting at 4 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, during which, the Illinois and Iowa Departments of Transportation (DOT) will present their plans for a new I-80 replacement bridge. 

Chad Pregracke, president and founder of Living Lands & Waters and leader of the Bison Bridge Project, tells members of the Bettendorf Business Network about the proposed bridge project at a BBN First Tuesday luncheon on Nov. 7. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

The DOTs have been studying alternatives for replacing the aging I-80 bridge, formally known as the Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge, since April 2020. The Bison Bridge Foundation, formed in 2021, has proposed a plan to preserve the old I-80 span and transform it into a land bridge, consisting of a multi-use recreational and wildlife crossing connecting the Illinois and Iowa riverfronts. 

“Wednesday’s meeting marks a pivotal moment in the trajectory of the Bison Bridge project,” Mr. Pregracke, the foundation’s president and founder, said in the release. “With the unwavering support of thousands, we urge each and every one of you to register for this crucial online gathering.”

To attend the virtual meeting, register here. This will mark the DOTs’ fourth I-80 Mississippi River Bridge Public Meeting. Transportation officials will present study information and the Preferred Alternative, as well as accept public comment.

The foundation said the DOT meeting is an “opportunity to voice your support for a one-of-a-kind initiative that can enhance the local environment and create a lasting legacy for the Quad Cities region.”

Mr. Pregracke added: “This visionary repurposing initiative not only unites two bike paths but also promises to elevate the Quad Cities into an even more vibrant and interconnected community. Your presence at the meeting is not just an act of support but a powerful statement, transforming our region for the better.” 

At a luncheon meeting with the Bettendorf Business Network a week ago, he told the BBN crowd that if transportation officials say the new I-80 bridge will be built on the same location as the current bridge, the Bison Bridge project would be over. However, he added that he is hopeful that a new alignment will be announced – leaving room to convert the original spans into a Bison Bridge. 

“The Bison Bridge Foundation has been tirelessly advocating for preserving and transforming this iconic structure for over four years, gaining significant national media attention, nearly 40,000 signatures of support, and the endorsement of local and regional clubs, groups, and elected officials from both sides of the river,” the foundation said in its release. 

According to the DOTs, the bridge study includes about six miles from the I-88/I-80 interchange in Illinois to 35th Street SW in LeClaire, Iowa. In addition to announcing the Preferred Alternative, the meeting will include a video presentation and a question-and-answer session with DOT staff and the project consultant team.

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