The placement of the final steel beam for the Interstate 74 bridge last week in Bettendorf represents a major milestone for the yearslong bridge construction.
"The last beam is a great place to be," George Ryan, I-74 corridor manager, said Thursday. "That's the last beam on the project ... among hundreds and hundreds of beams."
More than ever, the end is in sight. Workers are on target to finish the eastbound span and have both bridges open to traffic by the end of the year. Groundbreaking on bridge construction was in June 2017.
The final work on the superstructures will be the completion of the driving decks, which also is getting close, Ryan said.
All of the concrete has been poured in Moline, forming and rebar for the last of the driving surface is being completed in Bettendorf and the first of three concrete pours for the arch deck was underway last Thursday.
When the driving deck between the arch is finished and the approaches in Bettendorf have been poured, all that is left are the small details, including the removal of concrete barriers from the westbound bridge.
"We appreciate everyone's patience with us," Ryan said. "It's just an exciting, amazing project. The Quad-Cities has had to put up with us."
While motorists encountered a more spacious span than the old bridge when two-way traffic was moved onto the new Iowa-bound bridge, the opening of eastbound will "make the traffic situation just that much better," he said.
At the same time the Illinois-bound span opens, the bike and pedestrian path on the new bridge also will open. At 14 feet in width, the bike/ped lane is even wider than one of the driving lanes.
The much-anticipated opening of the second I-74 span will include the unveiling of the color-changing LED lights that are built into them. So far, the light system has only been tested.
"We had one practice with the lights," Ryan said. "Next time, they'll come on for good."