Downtown bridges to open as soon as barriers removed in Cedar Rapids

Edgewood Road bridge over Cedar River reopens

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Update Friday: 

From the City of Cedar Rapids:

Effective immediately, 3rd Avenue, 8th Avenue, and 12th Avenue Bridges are reopen following the removal of flood protection measures.

Motorists are advised to use caution and watch for any remaining flood debris on roadways.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Barriers erected to block floodwaters from reaching downtown are now left blocking only traffic as the river level steadily decreases.

The temporary barriers should be removed by Saturday morning, city officials said, with the First, Second, Third and Eighth avenue bridges opening as the city’s evacuation zone reopens to the public at 7 a.m. Saturday.

“Our plan is to have all the bridges open by Saturday, that’s our hope,” city spokeswoman Maria Johnson said. “The bridges are cleared to open back up once the barriers are down.”

The city’s public transit system also will restart Saturday.

North of downtown, the Edgewood Road crossing of the Cedar River was reopened Thursday afternoon.

All the bridges in the city were inspected this week, Johnson said, and have been cleared for use, including the 12th and 16th avenue bridges. The river’s historically high levels this week triggered the inspections.

“There’s nothing that we’ve seen that would indicate any damage,” said Doug Wilson, an engineering program manager for the city.

Inspectors looked for evidence of settlement, cracks or any visual changes in structure during the checks.

“You’ll see something pretty major if it’s getting pushed to a place where it’s going to be unsafe,” Wilson said. “We haven’t observed anything like that.”

On Edgewood, some areas below the street were washed out by the flood, creating large pockets underneath the pavement. Wilson said those holes will likely be filled with mortar soon, but the road still is safe for vehicles.

The city will inspect the downtown bridges more closely as water levels return to normal, Wilson said, examining the underside of the bridges the sending divers to check their footing.

“These bridges are in really good shape,” Wilson said. “We don’t expect to find anything.”

Bridges downtown, though declared safe, will likely remained closed through Friday as crews work to deconstruct barriers near First, Second, Third and Eighth avenues.

“It’s hard to say how long it’s going to take for crews,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of contractors and crews out working as hard and as fast as they can.”

At the city’s news conference Thursday morning, officials announced all residents and business owners inside the evacuation zone will be allowed to return starting at noon Friday.

Barricades along the edges of the evacuation zone will remain, Johnson said, in the hopes they will deter the public from entering the area before it’s opened to all.

But no one will be enforcing the residents-only policy, she said. The National Guard troops who staffed the evacuation zone earlier this week left Thursday.

“We’re hoping we can get residents throughout other areas of the city to be very respectful of the work that’s happening downtown and in other areas that are being affected,” Johnson said.

Interstate 380 ramps also will not be restricted only to residents as they are reopened.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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