Government

Cedar Rapids takes step toward creating iconic bridge

City hiring firm to conceptualize new Eighth Avenue Bridge

A sign announcing the replacement of the Eighth Avenue Bridge across the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids is seen Jan. 4 from the southwest side. The bridge replacement is envisioned to be part of the city’s flood control system. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A sign announcing the replacement of the Eighth Avenue Bridge across the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids is seen Jan. 4 from the southwest side. The bridge replacement is envisioned to be part of the city’s flood control system. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A San Francisco engineering firm is being hired by the city to design the first 30 percent of what officials hope becomes an iconic new bridge spanning the Cedar River through downtown.

T.Y. Lin International will lead the conceptual design of the Eighth Avenue replacement bridge, as well as plan how the bridge integrates into surrounding neighborhoods, the trail network and the flood control system.

“T.Y. Lin is an internationally respected engineering firm,” said Jen Winter, the Cedar Rapids public works director. “They are known worldwide for some of their significant structures or bridge structures … Many of the structures they’ve designed have become famous icons in the communities that they are located in.”

The Cedar Rapids City Council approved a resolution Tuesday to sign a $3.3 million professional services agreement with T.Y. Lin, which was one of 10 companies and four finalists vying for the work, to lead the conceptual design for the bridge and riverfront improvements. The design contract is expected to be complete by early 2020.

Conceptual design — 30 percent generally is considered the concept phase — provides the basis for next phase of developing cost estimates and creating technical reviews, Winter said.

The bridge itself is projected to cost about $30 million and the full project, including the peripheral work along the river and streets, is budgeted at $50 million.

Construction is not anticipated until 2023.

Aside from the main bridge structure, T.Y. Lin will explore several other elements:

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• Adapting a planned pump station near McGrath Amphitheatre on the west side of the river to include public uses such as an overlook, a restaurant and art displays.

• Two roundabouts along Eighth Avenue — one at Diagonal Drive SW and the other at Mount Vernon Road SE.

• Redevelopment possibilities of parking lot 44 near the federal courthouse on the east side of the river.

“This project is more than just a bridge,” Winter said. “It is a monumental project for the city of Cedar Rapids. Not only is this project going to be giving us a signature structure, it is going to be helping us with flood control and is also going to be opening up some opportunities for riverfront improvements we’ve been talking about as a community since 2008 and before.”

City officials began talking about replacing the 81-year-old Eighth Avenue Bridge more than two years ago.

It was nearing the end of its life span, and tackling the replacement at the same time as flood protection could create opportunities, officials said. Also, the bridge could be elevated high enough to maintain access across the river in the event of high water.

From the earliest stages, officials have seen the new bridge as an opportunity to create a signature public infrastructure project that has eye appeal and maximizes flood protection, even if it raises the price tag.

For example, the city is looking to eliminate most or all piers, which would reduce obstructions in the river, said Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids flood control manager.

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“Because of the nature of no piers in the river, we get an elegant-looking bridge,” Davis said.

A preference survey in 2016 favored a short tower cabled suspension bridge followed by an above arch travelway style bridge, but other options remain on the table, he said.

“Because of the design, the bridge itself is going to bring people to the community,” City Council member Tyler Olson said. “And they will be able to see all of the work the community has put in over the last 10 years to recover from the flood we had in 2008, but really way beyond recovery to what we see today, which is a really vibrant community particularly the core of our community.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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