CEDAR RAPIDS — A new Eighth Avenue Bridge over the Cedar River aims to accomplish two things: serve as a vital piece of a new flood control system in Cedar Rapids and become a defining feature of the downtown skyline.
City Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved paying Cedar Rapids-based engineering firm Shoemaker & Haaland $170,012 to create preliminary designs for a new Eighth Avenue Bridge to replace the existing 79-year-old structure.
The span would be replaced over three years beginning in 2020 and would be 10 to 14 feet taller than the existing bridge, meaning it would be visible from Interstate 380.
In city documents, officials said the bridge’s architecture should “be a defining feature of the downtown cityscape, somewhat iconic, unique and easily identifiable by the local population once constructed.”
City Council members like the idea of replacing the aging Eighth Avenue Bridge now rather than after the flood control system for the Cedar River is put into place. Officials said the existing bridge is nearing the end of its life span of up to 100 years.
Plus, the new bridge — with piers doubling as part of a flood wall — would be able to stay open to traffic in a major flood event whereas the existing bridge would need to be outfitted with floodgates at both ends — a project Rob Davis, the city’s flood control manager, said could cost $3 million to $4 million.
Furthermore, Davis said maintaining the existing bridge would cost $3 million to $5 million more than maintaining a new span.
“The numbers make sense because you’ll have an old bridge to put repairs into and have to get floodgates on,” said Councilman Kris Gulick in backing the plan.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to really create a focal point into our downtown,” added Councilman Scott Overland.
The bridge orientation would have to be shifted slightly because of industrial sites and the federal courthouse, meaning it would take out a parking lot and part of the festival grounds near McGrath Amphitheatre.
Davis estimates building a standard bridge could cost $15 million, but the bridge city officials are hoping to build could cost as much as $25 million.
He included a variety of iconic bridges in his presentation to council members on Tuesday.
In addition to the addition of the new bridge, the council on Tuesday also approved other changes to the flood control master plan:
21st Avenue SW and A Street SW would be realigned to go over a levy removing the need for a floodgate.
A levy is being favored over a removable flood wall near 16th Avenue and 17th Avenue. These changes would save the city $2 million to $3 million, Davis said.
“The city will have to come up with money to make this work, but my goal is to get this down to under $10 million, which is what a new bridge would have cost anyway,” Davis said in noting how cost savings might offset the cost of building the new bridge.
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