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Diane Oestreich: Save Our "Signature" Bridges
Thursday January 16, @08:42AM, by Diane Oestreich
Subject : Bridge Issues
Summary :

In a letter to the Quad City Times and the Rock Island Argus, Diane Oestreich argues that the existing I-74 spans should be preserved by law.

Text :

Recent news articles have told how the cities of Moline and Bettendorf voted to turn down the generous offer of the gift of a bridge (or two) from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).

Why would anyone turn down a free gift? In this case, it’s pretty easy. By telling those cities they could have the bridge if they are willing commit future millions for maintenance, it is almost guaranteed that the cities will have to say, "No thanks." And then when that expected response is forthcoming, the cities end up being the bad guys, not the DOT.

Underlying this issue is the fact that it seems there’s never been a serious intent to save the historic bridges. While the DOT and its consultants go through the motions, the planning options for the new bridges and their ramps pretty much assume the old ones will be gone.

Let’s be realistic. I believe that Moline and Bettendorf could be induced to take on the day-to-day maintenance of the bridges – cleaning, plowing, etc – just as they do on public streets. What they cannot commit to is paying for periodic major maintenance such as painting or roadway rebuilding.

But there’s another way. Consider the following. One bridge is already eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and the other will be by the time it would be demolished. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that the effect of federal expenditures on historic structures be studied. If there is a potential negative effect – as demolition is -- there are other requirements. At a minimum, such properties must be extensively documented. Or they may be moved. The good news is that expenses for historic preservation are, by law, considered to be a legitimate part of the entire project cost.

The natural conclusion is that the expenses to preserve and reuse the historic spans should be a planned part of the total cost of the I-74 corridor modification. Various schemes for use of these bridges should be seriously explored. If the consultants and the DOT would work under the premise that at least one of these bridges MUST remain, the studies and recommendations would be quite different.

So, Moline and Bettendorf, it’s up to you. Go back to the DOT. Tell them you want to keep these historic "signature" bridges and that you don’t want to be blackmailed. Demand that the real options for reuse be explored by assuming these bridges will stay and that major long-term expenses will be funded as a very small percentage of the total I-74 corridor cost. The community deserves no less.

By the way, there are those among us who even question the need for any new bridge in this location. But that’s another letter.

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