The team proposing the Bison Bridge project felt positive after the Illinois and Iowa Departments of Transportation held a joint public meeting Thursday, according to a news release.
The public meeting, held as a virtual webinar, included representatives from the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation and from Parsons. The purpose of the meeting was to present further findings from the Phase I NEPA process of the Planning and Environmental Linkages study, to present a narrowed list of alternatives for the new crossing as part of that study, which commenced in April of 2020, and to receive further feedback from the public on the project.
The presentation materials included a list of question and comment topics received during the public record comment period that ran from May 11 to May 25 after Public Meeting #2. The Bison Bridge, reusing the bridge, a safe, multi-use facility accessible by pedestrians and cyclists, and ADA accessibility were all topics on the list.
In addition to providing a narrowed list of alternatives for the alignment of the new I-80 crossing and the new I-88 / I-80 interchange, Illinois and Iowa DOTs provided a timeline for the conclusion of the NEPA phase of the PEL study. The panel will host a fourth public meeting sometime “mid-year” of 2023, with the final report and conclusion of phase I at the end of 2023. At that point, the Federal Highway Administration must provide the final approval of the project before it can move into phase II.
Chad Pregracke, founder and president of the Bison Bridge Foundation, issued a statement on behalf of the Bison Bridge team on Thursday:
“Thank you to the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation for acknowledging the comments and questions from the supporters of the Bison Bridge project and thank you to our supporters for joining the conversation and participating in the public meetings. We are grateful to be able to continue our work to develop our proposal as we respectfully look forward to the final report at the end of next year.”
The panelists provided four remaining alternatives for the new crossing. Two would not require the demolition of the existing bridge. Discussion about a change of ownership for the existing bridge and the development of a public park space and wildlife crossing is still not possible until the I-80 crossing project has moved out of Phase I.
With existing and planned paths on both sides of the river, commenters continued to be vocal about the inclusion of a pedestrian crossing at I-80 during the Q&A on Thursday. The Bison Bridge team hopes the level of interest in a safe multi-use facility will continue to build support for the Bison Bridge project, which would provide a park-like setting atop the bridge for pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchair access across the river.
The Illinois and Iowa DOTs and Parsons will narrow the proposed alternatives to the single preferred alternative. Materials from all three of the public meetings can be found online at the Illinois DOT dedicated site for the project here.
The Bison Bridge team is asking for proponents of the Bison Bridge proposal to continue generating support through the public comment period, which will remain open indefinitely, with any comments before November 10, 2022 included in public record.
“We still need your comments and questions, and we still need your support,” said Pregracke. “Our proposal for the Bison Bridge will provide a park and public space crossing over the Mississippi River for everyone. There are amazing infrastructure reuse projects happening all over the country and they are improving quality of life, access, economic development, and tourism. We would love to make it happen in the Quad Cities.”
Comments and questions can be submitted to the panelists here.