As many of Davenport’s downtown railroad track intersections are still retrofitted with temporary street crossings, Public Works Director Nicole Gleason said Wednesday that final construction of a more permanent solution will likely not begin until spring.
Over the past several weeks, a workgroup of city staff, elected officials and riverfront commissioners have been evaluating engineering designs drawn up by a private firm hired by Canadian Pacific Railway, which owns the tracks. All but one of the design plans are progressing to more detailed renderings, but the seasonal window to start that work has closed, Gleason said.
“As we are right now is how we’re likely going to be through the winter,” Gleason said, adding that if all goes well the construction of the final railroad crossings will probably start in April or March depending on the weather.
The lone holdout design is a concept offered by the city that concerns access to Modern Woodmen Park. Under that design, Gaines Street would be a pedestrian-only crossing and Warren Street would be the main vehicular crossing.
Gleason said the Warren-Gaines concept is an expensive proposition — low estimates are $1.2 million — that will probably need to be negotiated with Canadian Pacific. If the railroad doesn’t want to pay the full tab, Gleason said, the council will be called upon to decide whether the city should put taxpayer dollars toward that project. Council members would have the final say in that scenario.
Canadian Pacific is footing the bill for all the other street crossings that are moving forward, Gleason added.
In March, Canadian Pacific Railroad lifted its tracks — up several feet at some places — much to the dismay of city officials and residents. Company officials said the track-raising was necessary to protect the rails from floodwater and keep freight traffic moving through Iowa and the broader Midwest.
Initially, city officials complained about a lack of communication with the railroad because the track-raising began with no warning. Federal law gives railroad companies great leeway when it comes to their right-of-way. But city officials and the railroad have since patched up some of those concerns, and the railroad company has said it remains dedicated to finding an agreeable solution for both parties.
Meanwhile, some community leaders have worried about whether the designs will fit with long-term goals for the city’s riverfront. City leaders have long expressed a desire to build up the area commonly called the city’s greatest asset but have struggled to find ways to pay for many of the expensive proposals.