The new $1.2 billion Interstate 74 Bridge Quad Citians celebrated on Wednesday took decades to move from dream to reality, and it was built on the shoulders of a host of local, state and national visionaries.
Many of them were on hand as part of the “We Made It!” bi-state party staged by the Illinois and Iowa Departments of Transportation, two agencies essential in making the structure rise. Others who laid the groundwork for the stunning river crossing handcrafted by tradesmen and women no longer are with us. But their contributions, which paved the way for the first new Quad-Cities river crossing in half a century, cannot be ignored.
“A project like this takes a long time and it takes everyone and every entity at every level pushing for the same goal,” said Denise Bulat, executive director of the Bistate Regional Commission. Ms Bulat, who joined Bistate in 1984; her former boss, the late Gary Vallem; state transportation leaders; local elected officials; and others began working in earnest to address Mississippi River crossing challenges in the late 1980s.
“All along the way, there were issues that had to be addressed, that had to be dealt with right away,” she said. While many in the community publicly doubted that a new bridge would ever be built, Ms. Bulat said those working on the project were sure it would one day become a reality and they committed to making it happen. To do that, she said, :”Instead of saying ‘no ‘,” planners focused on, “How do we say, ‘yes,’ and then finding the middle ground to make it work.”
Decades of planning and cooperation went into the project, while Quad Cities leaders wracked up frequent flyer miles traveling to Washington to lobby Congress for the money to one day make it happen. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle responded by pledging their district discretionary funds — known as “earmarks” — to fund the pivotal study that led to the bridge that spans the river today.
All that cooperation paid off for a community that for too long had been divided by the Mississippi River rather than joined by it.
Yes, “We made it!” Quad Citians. Savor it. We built it together.
Just look at what we can do when we work together as a region. Let’s find the next big project, which might be more of a human retention and recruitment campaign for the region rather than a physical one, and let’s work together to get it accomplished.