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Public can walk onto new I-74 bridge on Dec. 1
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Public can walk onto new I-74 bridge on Dec. 1

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Take a tour of the new I-74 Bridge with columnist Barb Ickes, and George Ryan, the Corridor Manager I-74 Improvement Quad-Cities.

The new Illinois-bound I-74 bridge is to open early next month, but the public is invited for a close-up look before traffic is permitted.

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, buses will be available to shuttle the public from the TaxSlayer Center in Moline to the bridge. Pedestrians will access the new eastbound span from the ramp at River Drive.

MetroLink shuttles will be available, beginning at 12:30, and Quad-City leaders will speak at 1:30. The bridge will be accessible to pedestrians from 1 to 4 p.m. from Moline only. Those attending are urged to dress warmly and be prepared for a considerable walk from parking or drop-off areas to the ramp and from the ramp to the arches.

A date has not yet been determined for motorist access to the second span, but transportation officials on Monday assured the drive-over date will be "sometime shortly thereafter ... (within) a few days" of the public celebration on Dec. 1.

It is likely the pedestrian and bike path that is attached to the Illinois-bound span will open shortly after the driving deck goes into use.

"I think the workers have delivered something really special to the Quad-Cities," I-74 Corridor manager George Ryan said during a news conference Monday. "All-in-all, it was delivered close to the $1 billion (budget) as promised."

The opening of the westbound span in November 2020 came about a year behind the original construction schedule, and the primary bridge builder, Lunda Construction, has asked for millions in additional pay.

Ryan said on Monday that he isn't sure how much Lunda is being paid beyond the $322 million contract for the bridge and its basket-handle design arches. As of summer of 2020, Lunda had been paid an additional $6.2 million of the $16 million approved in contract modifications at the time.

The completed twin spans represent "a world-class interstate connection," Ryan said, congratulating hundreds of iron workers and other members of the construction trades who built them.

In addition to its anticipated lifespan of at least 100 years, the bridges will be much safer than the old twins, Ryan said, largely because of their size. Each span of the old bridge is just 28 feet wide, and the new spans are 72 feet wide.

"It'll be so nice and so safe for years to come," he said. "No more long lines and delays."

Bids for demolition of the old spans will be let in the spring, and Ryan said he anticipates that explosives will be used to take down the center portion, which is the location of the long-closed toll plaza and offices below.

But it will be up to the winning bidder to determine how to take down the structures, he said.

Also in the spring, landscaping work will commence in both the Moline and Bettendorf downtowns. Lunda has some finishing work to do, Ryan said, and some of the aesthetic lighting on the eastbound span is likely to be completed after the opening.

With more than 70,000 vehicles crossing I-74 in the Quad-Cities every day prior to the start of new-bridge construction in the summer of 2017, the old spans were well over capacity, Ryan said. The new spans can accommodate more than 100,000 vehicles a day, he said.

Previous problems with water drainage off the bridge, which was causing vehicles to hydroplane, have been fixed, and drainage will further improve, Ryan said, when the second span opens and dividing barricades are removed from the westbound crossing.

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