If you’re not quite sure what the Bi-State Regional Commission is, you have them to thank every time you cross the new $1.2-billion Interstate 74 bridge, nearing completion.
On Oct. 27, the commission celebrated its 55th anniversary by honoring its partners in the long-planned I-74 Bridge Corridor project. Speakers included members of the project advisory team:
• Jim Schnoebelen, the District 6 Engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation,
• Masood Ahmad, the District 2 and District 3 Engineer for Illinois DOT,
• Andy Wilson, the Program Delivery Team Leader for the Iowa Division of the Federal Highway Administration, and
• George Ryan, the I-74 Project Corridor Manager with Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions.
The Bi-State Regional Commission was formed in 1966 to respond to the need for transportation planning across state lines. The mission of the commission has remained the same since its inception — to provide direct technical service to member governments and to facilitate their joint efforts. The Bi-State Regional Commission serves as a forum for cooperation, with a complex service area of two states, five counties, multiple municipalities and over 425,000 people.
Bi-State’s cooperative processes have inspired others to model this bi-state region, with programs such the I-74 Corridor, the regional trail system, and the formation of the port statistical area.
“I am honored to be the chair of the Bi-State Regional Commission as we celebrate 55 years of working together,” said Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher. “The I-74 project was adopted as Bi-State’s top transportation priority in 1998 and remained our priority through many changes in leadership. This unity of vision helped make the project a success.”
The bridge project is the most significant public infrastructure project in the history of the Bi-State Region and it is nearing completion, with the Illinois-bound span due to be finished by the end of December.
The entire project includes the replacement of the I-74 twin bridges over the Mississippi River (which opened in 1935 and 1960, respectively), interchange ramp reconfigurations, and interstate and local roadway improvements. Construction began in July 2017 and is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2021.
The Iowa-bound span (which features traffic in both directions) opened in November 2020, and the new bridge will be more than twice as wide as the existing bridge, providing four lanes in each direction. A multi-use path on the bridge will connect to paths in Bettendorf and Moline. Between Middle Road in Bettendorf and Avenue of the Cities in Moline, I-74 will be expanded to three lanes in each direction with additional lanes at select locations.
Among the functions Bi-State provided for the bridge project were planning and adopting a bridge plan crossing in 1998, testifying to the U.S. Senate in 2003 and adopting a preferred alternative project in 2005.
In his chairman’s message in Bi-State’s anniversary report, Gallagher said Bi-State is unique.
“The metropolitan area is nearly equally divided between the states of Iowa and Illinois, thus underscoring the importance of local government cooperation. Collaboration is essential considering the complex service area encompassed by the Bi-State Regional Commission – two states, five counties, 65 municipalities, and over 425,000 people,” he wrote.
“Local governments face the challenges of increased regulations and mandates, coupled with reduced funding. Intergovernmental and regional cooperation is one of the ways to address the many issues facing us,” Gallagher wrote.
The annual budget for Bi-State is approximately $2 million (with 18 staff members, offices in the Rock Island County Building, 1504 3rd Ave., Rock Island), including $100,000 in local government dues, and $800,000 from federal and state funding. Commission executive director Denise Bulat wrote they get great support from local government officials.
“Our local government partnership is invaluable, as we move forward together to enhance the quality of life in the bi-state region,” she wrote.
Bi-State programs include:
- Transportation planning
- Community and economic development planning
- GIS/mapping, graphic design and informational services
- Intergovernmental programs such as joint purchasing, project facilitation, drug and alcohol testing, solid waste planning and municipal code enforcement
- Administrative services such as payroll processing, accounting and financial management
The commission was created in 1966 through the merger of planning commissions in Rock Island and Scott counties. In 1974, the Henry County Regional Planning Commission merged with by state, and in 1976, Mercer and Muscatine counties joined.
It’s a local, voluntary organization of five counties, representing 44 municipalities. Bi-State is not another layer or higher authority of government; nor is Bi-State created, controlled, or maintained by the federal or state governments, according to its website. For more information, visit bistateonline.org.