The sun was as bright as the smiles on the faces of leaders, runners and cyclists gathered Wednesday, May 18, to cut the ceremonial ribbon on a “super freaking cool” Interstate 74 Bridge pedestrian and bike path.
It wasn’t the first time many of the 70-plus people standing near the path’s locally famous overlook had traversed the bi-state connection since it opened on Wednesday, April 27. But the event was a chance to celebrate the unique amenity and acknowledge all who made it happen.
Toward that end, it featured two ribbon cuttings. One for regional leaders and a second to thank members of Quad Cities running and cycling clubs and River Action’s Kathy Wine for their support of the project.
Leaders celebrating the “cool,” “creative” and “connected” multi-use path delivered their remarks from a podium behind the path’s giant glass oculus. It’s the star of the 14-foot wide, one-mile long path. The 10-foot diameter decorative “window” offers views of the Mississippi River below. In fact, below it could be seen a barge and equipment still being used on the project.
Visit Quad Cities President and CEO Dave Herrell called the ribbon cutting a “big day” for the community, “and what it stands for is we can do anything that we put our minds to. We can do anything that we want to do. We can have cool things in the Quad Cities.”
He called the unique new bi-state connection “more than an asset – it’s part of our story. It’s part of our rich tradition. It’s part of our future. You know what? It’s super freaking cool that you can come up here and literally walk, bike, hang out.“
Mr. Herrell also singled out the efforts of Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn and Bi-State Regional Commission Executive Director Denise Bulat. They are, he said, among the people of “vision, passion and perseverance and grit” who have been “in it for the long haul” to build the new I-74 Bridge – which celebrated its grand opening Dec. 1, 2021 – and its one-of-a-kind multi-use path.
“Thanks for your leadership in helping make this happen,” Mr. Herrell said.
Ms. Bulat, in turn, thanked all who worked together in every phase of the bridge and path’s development and construction.
“This trail is special, because it involves the collaboration of federal, state and local partners,” she said. “It is special because it’s on an interstate and that is very rare. And it’s special, because it’s a gift from the cities of Moline and Bettendorf,” which, she added, have agreed to maintain the trail upon its completion.
“If they had not made that commitment, we would not be standing here today,” she said.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” added Mike Oberhaus, a runner and the interim president/CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. “We also want to thank the thousands of skilled crafts persons who worked on this to get it where it is today. But for them, we wouldn’t have structures like this.”
Representatives from the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation (IDOTs) also led the celebration. In brief comments, Illinois DOT engineer Dave VonKaenel lauded the “great” partnerships that built the path, which he called one of the best features of the new bridge. “We’re thrilled to see everyone using the new path and posing for photos of themselves right here on the oculus,” he said.
For Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati, the path is a chance to celebrate and strengthen Quad Cities and regional connectivity.
“I’ve watched with pride as the interest in this amenity grows and the path is busy when I’m driving to and from Iowa,” said Ms. Rayapati, whose family celebrated Mother’s Day there.
“These connections are good. They are the metaphorical and literal bridging of the community in and among us. Building a community of distinction is a challenge, but this path helps us accomplish that,” she added. “Enjoy, Quad Cities, that’s where engineering meets artistry and delivers for our community.”
Bettendorf Mayor Robert Gallagher celebrated the partnerships that created a multi-use path to connect the Quad Cities to the spot where the American Discovery Trail and Mississippi River Trail connect.
He invoked the playwright Henrik Ibsen who wrote, “A community is like a ship, everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm” to celebrate all of the Quad Cities leaders who had taken the helm on the bridge and path over the years.
“It’s also a great place to watch the sunset over our sister cities of Davenport and Rock Island,” Mr. Gallagher said of the span that connects Bettendorf and Moline. “The cool lighting on the overlook point at night gives it a special feel. Each part of this multi-use path we celebrate today was planned, purposefully, to provide the cool feeling you get when you traverse the path or enjoy this overlook spot.”
Mr. Gallagher and others also shared what comes next now that traffic is moving easily on the bridge and the path is christened. Contracts are expected to be let later this year on two cargo-sized elevators that will take path users from the bridge to the Bettendorf trails below. Meanwhile, work continues to complete demolition and reclamation of the approaches to the old Interstate 74 bridge. Another contract is expected to be let later this year for demolition of the main sections of the twin spans over the river, which now sit in the shadow of the new bridge.