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Years from now when a new Interstate 80 bridge starts to take shape, the old span might be saved and converted into a Bison Bridge – that is, a land bridge, consisting of a wildlife and a recreational crossing connecting the Illinois and Iowa riverfronts on the Mississippi River. That Bison Bridge dream took a step forward on Thursday, Oct. 13, when a group of college students and professionals in the landscape architecture field volunteered their time and talents to present a series of possible bridge designs to the Quad Cities community. “They (the students) were phenomenal to work with,” said Jacob Deason, a landscape architect with the firm MKSK of Lafayette, Indiana, who helped guide the students during the event. “We had sketches covering all the walls. They came up with some of the best ideas.” Many of the best ideas were presented Thursday to a crowd of about 100 people in the John Deere Auditorium at the Figge Art Museum in downtown Davenport at the conclusion of a three-day design planning meeting called the 2022 Xtreme LA. That event brought together 24 students from Iowa State University and the University of Illinois (along with some landscape architectural professionals) to show what a Bison Bridge over the river might look like. The event was not a competition between students, but the students were divided into two teams to develop plans. Among the event’s hosts was environmentalist Chad Pregracke’s Living Lands & Waters, which has been promoting the idea to convert the I-80 bridge into a Bison Bridge when the span is replaced. “Over a highly charged two-day period, teams will be briefed by local representatives, visit key touch-point locations, and return to studio workshops to strategize, devise conceptual overviews and plans, create schematic designs, and development presentations of their solutions,” according to information provided by 2022 Xtreme LA. The students and professionals volunteered for the project because they are “passionate and interested in making (the Bison Bridge) a reality,” said Kirt Martin, chief innovation officer of Landscapes Forms, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based design and manufacturing company that helped present the event. “They all volunteered for this. … This was a challenge for them to create something they can give back to the community,” he added. Some of the designers took the challenge because they saw an interesting project that needed a solution. “I thought it would be a great experience to go to a community that I have never visited and try to solve a unique problem,” Mr. Deason added. Here are some of the Bison Bridge designs presented to the crowd Thursday by two teams of students and professionals:
- “Jurassic World” design. This bridge design consists of a cable car-like vehicle attached to a track system above the bridge used by bison and other wildlife. Visitors would use the cable car to safely view the animals.
- “Monumental Bridge” design. Under this design, two pathways for people would be built above and below the Biason Bridge. Wildlife would use the bridge, and people would use the two pathways to view the animals.
- Other designs highlighted visitor centers in Iowa and Illinois, near the bridge.
- Designs also included solar panels to power features on the bridge; campgrounds near the bridge; walking and biking trails; a nature vista outlook; boat launches; boardwalks; and an overlook tower.