Government

Iowa City girds for RAGBRAI's arrival

Rider support vehicles will be first to use new bridge

Work continues Wednesday on the Park Road Bridge across the Iowa River in Iowa City. Support vehicles for riders on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa will be the first to use the new bridge. It will remained closed to the public until late August. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Work continues Wednesday on the Park Road Bridge across the Iowa River in Iowa City. Support vehicles for riders on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa will be the first to use the new bridge. It will remained closed to the public until late August. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — With just over a week until thousands of bicyclists roll into town, event organizers are nearing their own finish line preparing for the ride’s final overnight stop on the annual trek across Iowa.

Iowa City is expecting between 15,000 and 20,000 riders July 27 to camp overnight and attend concerts before the cyclists finish the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa the next day in Davenport.

The 428-mile ride starts Sunday in Onawa. This is the first time in 42 years that the ride has picked Iowa City as one of its overnight stops.

City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city is expecting to host something similar to Iowa City’s Block Party, held earlier this year. Riders will have a chance to enjoy food and drinks, activities and concerts within a blocked-off section of downtown.

The event is expected to cost $135,000. Fruin said it would be paid for through merchandise sales, sponsorships, wristband fees and beverage garden sales.

“It’s all expected to be covered. We hope to come in a little bit ahead of that from a revenue standpoint. Any proceeds that we make will be donated to the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties,” he said.

Todd Means, treasurer for Iowa City’s RAGBRAI planning efforts, said the event has received $80,000 in sponsorships. Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said merchandise sales are expected to be $10,000 to $12,000.

ROAD WORK AHEAD

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Support vehicles for RAGBRAI riders will be the first to use the new Park Road Bridge, which won’t open to the public until late August.

To get to camp sites at City Park or to recreational vehicle and bus parking at Hancher Auditorium, registered support vehicles will exit Interstate 80 onto Dubuque Street to drive across the bridge, which still is under construction.

More RV space will be in Napoleon Park, 2501 S. Gilbert St., on the south side of Iowa City.

Cyclists won’t be allowed on the new bridge and instead must take Iowa Avenue to Riverside Drive and go north to reach City Park.

The new bridge and elevating Dubuque Street is part of the city’s Gateway project — a flood mitigation effort to better protect a major entrance into Iowa City.

Visitors won’t be free from construction even after they leave the area to get downtown for the festivities. Iowa City is in the first season of a two-year effort to replace underground utilities and improve the streetscape of the Pedestrian Mall.

This year’s work includes the Ped Mall’s Dubuque Street section as well as Black Hawk Mini Park and the Dubuque and College streets intersection.

The construction leaves pedestrians with small winding walkways to get to businesses. As part of the preparation for RAGBRAI, Fruin said, an additional walkway will be opened near the Graduate Hotel.

“We will not be constructing on RAGBRAI and the construction site will be tidied up and fenced off and the riders will be welcome to visit on the Ped Mall,” he said.

EXPECT CLOSURES

Bike riders will enter the city July 27 from the south along Sand Road/Gilbert Street, then take:

• S. Gilbert Street north to Market Street

• Market Street west to Madison Street

• Madison Street south to Iowa Avenue

• Iowa Avenue west to Riverside Drive

• Riverside Drive north to Park Road, and the main entrance to City Park.

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The route out of town July 28 will be the same in reverse, except riders will use Jefferson Street (one-way eastbound) instead of Market Street (one-way westbound).

A number of road closures are expected in areas of Gilbert Street, Market Street, Iowa Avenue, Washington Street and Riverside Drive. See iowacityragbrai.com/news for details.

Set up will begin as early as 6 a.m. July 26 and will affect Iowa Avenue between Clinton and Dubuque streets, as well as Clinton between Jefferson and Washington streets.

ENTERTAINMENT PLANS

The heart of downtown will be closed for the July 27 “Book It to Iowa City Bash.” Organizers plan seven entrances to the downtown bash, which will run from noon to midnight and have stages, movies, beverage stands, competitions and yard games.

The main stage at Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue will feature the Jayhawks and Blitzen Trapper as headliners.

A wristband will be required at the entrance. It’s $10 but free for those who aren’t drinking or are underage.

For those camping at City Park, the city plans to offer a shuttle to and from downtown. There also will be food trucks, a bike repair station and first aid at the campsite.

ENFORCING LAWS

Fruin said RAGBRAI requires plenty of overtime hours for local law enforcement officials, so the city plans to increase staffing for the night.

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“Our police department is well-versed at handling large crowds and this will be no different,” Fruin said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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