The country’s top transportation official will get a first-hand look at the Interstate 74 bridge on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet with area congressmen and other leaders to discuss the span, long planned for replacement. The meeting will come the same week staff at Iowa’s transportation department proposed delaying construction funding for the bridge. Local officials have been wrangling for weeks to try to keep construction funding in place for the bridge in the face of questions over the timing of Illinois’ financial commitments.

Local transportation officials have been working for years to replace the structure, which they say is outdated and handles more traffic than it was built for.

LaHood, a former congressman from Illinois, already was planning to be in the Quad-Cities. He’s the guest speaker at a legal event sponsored by the local bar associations. Still, his visit with local officials will elevate the project’s visibility.

“We are happy to welcome Secretary LaHood to the Quad-Cities, so he can see first hand the important part the I-74 bridge plays in the local community, region and states,” Reps. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said in a statement this morning.

The congressmen had requested last month that LaHood visit the bridge. Local officials had done the same, and they will meet with LaHood as well.

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“The I-74 bridge is an important reminder that there are big transportation projects that need our attention across the country,” LaHood said. “We can’t afford to keep kicking the can down the road with extensions. We need Congress to pass a long-term, bipartisan transportation bill, so states and cities have the funding and the certainty they need to tackle big efforts like this.”

LaHood, Schilling and Loebsack will be viewing the I-74 bridge at 2 p.m. Friday at 12th Street east of Leach Park. Also expected to join them are Moline Mayor Don Welvaert and Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher Jr.

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