Bison Bridge team optimistic after latest I-80 bridge meeting

This artist’s rendering illustrates one potential concept for a proposed Bison Bridge on the old Interstate 80 bridge. CREDIT BISON BRIDGE FOUNDATION
This artist’s rendering illustrates one potential concept for a proposed Bison Bridge on the old Interstate 80 bridge. CREDIT BISON BRIDGE FOUNDATION

The team proposing the Bison Bridge project said it is feeling positive after the Illinois and Iowa departments of transportation (DOTs) held a joint public meeting last week concerning the replacement of the Interstate 80 bridge over the Mississippi River.

The public meeting, held as a virtual webinar on Thursday, Oct. 27, included representatives from the Iowa and Illinois DOTs and other project engineers. The meeting presented further findings from the Phase I NEPA process of the Planning and Environmental Linkages study. The officials announced a narrowed list of new crossing alternatives as part of that study, which began in April 2020. The meeting also was designed to gather more feedback from the public on the bridge project.

The presentation materials included a list of questions and comments received during the public record comment period that ran from May 11-25 following what was a second public meeting on the project. Among the topics were the Bison Bridge’s proposal to reuse the bridge and create a safe, multi-use facility accessible by pedestrians and cyclists.

“Thank you to the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation for acknowledging the comments and questions from the supporters of the Bison Bridge project and thank you to our supporters for joining the conversation and participating in the public meetings,” Chad Pregracke, founder and president of the Bison Bridge Foundation, said in a statement released Friday, Oct. 28. “We are grateful to be able to continue our work to develop our proposal as we respectfully look forward to the final report at the end of next year.” 

Mr. Pregracke, the founder of Living Lands & Waters, said the Bison Bridge team is continuing to ask supporters to show their support through the latest public comment period, which will remain open indefinitely. Any comments received before Thursday, Nov. 10, will be included in the project’s public record.

“We still need your comments and questions, and we still need your support,” said Mr. Pregracke, a Quad Cities native and well known environmentalist. “Our proposal for the Bison Bridge will provide a park and public space crossing over the Mississippi River for everyone. There are amazing infrastructure reuse projects happening all over the country and they are improving quality of life, access, economic development, and tourism.”

“We would love to make it happen in the Quad Cities,” he added in the news release. 

During the latest public meeting, the panelists provided four remaining alternatives for the new crossing – two of which would not require the demolition of the existing bridge. 

Discussion about a change of ownership for the existing bridge and the development of a public park space and wildlife crossing is still not possible until the I-80 crossing project has moved out of Phase I, the Bison Bridge release said.

The Illinois and Iowa DOTs and Parsons will narrow the proposed alternatives to the single preferred alternative. Materials from all three of the public meetings can be found online at the Illinois DOT dedicated project website

In addition to providing narrowed lists of bridge alternatives and related interchange improvements, the DOTs offered a timeline for the conclusion of the NEPA phase of the PEL study. The panel will host a fourth public meeting sometime “mid-year” in 2023, with the final report and conclusion of Phase I at the end of 2023. At that point, the Federal Highway Administration must provide final approval before the project can move into Phase II.

With existing and planned paths on both sides of the river, commenters continued to be vocal about the inclusion of a pedestrian crossing at I-80 during the Question & Answer period on Thursday. 

The Bison Bridge team said it hopes the level of interest in a safe multi-use facility will continue to build support for the Bison Bridge project.

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