Five and a half months after the complete I-74 Bridge opened to traffic, Quad Cities community leaders, state transportation officials and members of bike and running clubs met Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the bridge’s new pedestrian/bike path.
The path (on the western edge of the $1-billion bridge) opened at the end of April, is 14 feet wide, over 4,000 feet long, and the bridge arches rise 245 feet high. A lookout feature in the middle of the path is a circular blue-green, glass Oculus, which is lit from below at night, as are benches at the overlook.
“This trail is an amazing asset for residents and visitors alike,” Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said Wednesday afternoon before a QC Chamber ribbon-cutting, noting several strong partnerships needed to make it a reality.
“I am so proud and thankful we now have the Oculus and the bike and pedestrian path, to add to our list of must-see or must-do activities,” she said. “This space makes it possible to not only connect our geography, but connect us with the people in our midst.”
Rayapati connected with her family to celebrate Mother’s Day this month on the path.
“I’ve watched with pride as interest in this amenity grows and the path is busy,” she said. “These connections are the literal and metaphorical bridging of the community in and among us. Building a community of distinction is a challenge, but this path helps us accomplish that.”
Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher quoted Henrik Ibsen, who said: “A community is like a ship – everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
“To complete this bridge and path project, everyone in our community had to be prepared to take the helm at one point or another,” Gallagher said, citing the cooperation among countless federal, state and local officials, contractors, and others — a sprawling public-private partnership.
“This truly a cool, creative project that brings connectivity, figuratively and quite literally, to our area,” he said. “Thank you to all who took a turn at the helm.”
This new feature gives us a rare opportunity to experience a multi-use path on an interstate highway, which also connects to the American Discovery Trail and Mississippi River Trail that link in the QC, the mayor said.
“It’s also a great place to watch the sunset over our sister cities of Davenport and Rock Island,” Gallagher said. “The cool lighting you’ll see on the overlook point at night gives it a special feel. Each part of this multi-use path we celebrate today was planned, purposefully, to provide the cool feeling you get when you traverse the path or enjoy this overlook spot.”
People can access the path from River Drive in Moline and State Street in Bettendorf.
“A big day”
“This is a big day,” said Dave Herrell, president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities. “You gotta have people who are willing to be in it for the long haul. And the fact that this is now part of our community, our destination and our region is something all of our residents can be really, really proud of.”
“It’s more than an asset – it’s part of our story; it’s part of our rich tradition; it’s part of our future. You know what? It’s super freaking cool that you can come up here and literally walk, bike, hang out.”
“Everyone’s proud of what this bridge stands for – and what it stands for is, we can do anything we can put our minds to,” Herrell said. “We can have cool things in the Quad Cities. I know we can use this as an activation vehicle for our world-renowned asset, the Mississippi River. We can use this as an asset for increasing visitation and trying to drive talent, and doing the things we want to do to move our brand forward.”
The most important thing the bridge and path represents is the QC can stand together as one community, as one region, “and we can do anything we can put our minds to,” he said.
“This is a great day to be a Quad Citizen. I am extremely proud of this moment,” Herrell said.
Many cyclists and runners on hand
Mandy Griesenbeck of Davenport, the race and event director for Friends of Off-Road Cycling (FORC), rode across the new path the second day it was open. She was among many bicyclists and runners who came out for Wednesday’s event.
“When the trails are wet, we’re out on the bike path,” she said of local paved paths. The new bridge trail is cool, Griesebeck said.
“You gotta stop and check out the Oculus and the view,” she said. “It’s great, very pretty.”
Denise Bulat, executive director of Bi-State Regional Commission, said the group has helped with trail planning since the late ‘80s, and the region has over 200 miles of trails. “Now we’re adding approximately one mile,” she said of the 74 Bridge path.
“This trail is special, because it involves the collaboration of federal, state and local partners,” she said. “It is special because it’s on an interstate and that is very rare. And it’s special, because it’s a gift from the cities of Moline and Bettendorf.”
Bulat noted the cities are responsible for the bridge lighting and trail maintenance.
Mike Oberhaus, interim president/CEO of the QC Chamber, said this is another great way to get across two states.
“It’s a wonderful thing. We also want to thank the thousands of skilled craftspeople who worked on this to get it where it is today,” he said. “But for them, we wouldn’t have structures like this.”
“It’s another amenity, to help us to be really be, ‘Quad Cities, That’s Where’ we live, work and play,” Oberhaus said. “This is a great opportunity to play.”
The long process of dismantling the old I-74 bridge is expected to take another year, and a new elevator in Bettendorf to bring visitors from a new riverfront park up to the path is expected to be completed by spring 2024.
For bridge updates, click HERE.