Government

Iowa City to replace Gilbert Street bridge near downtown in coming years

City working to secure funds for project

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IOWA CITY — A heavily traveled bridge near downtown Iowa City is slated for replacement in the coming years.

The Iowa City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to receive funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation to replace the Gilbert Street bridge over Ralston Creek south of Burlington Street. The project is estimated to cost $1.9 million, and the DOT funding covers 80 percent reimbursement on costs up to $1 million, said City Engineer Jason Havel. The city would be responsible for the remaining costs, which would come out of Road Use Tax Funds and General Obligation Funds.

“This is the first step in securing the funds,” Havel said Wednesday.

The Gilbert Street bridge and Burlington Street bridge over the Iowa River were identified by the DOT as two bridges eligible for funding. Havel said each year the DOT looks at bridges in need of repair or replacement and ranks the ones eligible for funding.

While both bridges are eligible for replacement, Havel said neither represent a safety concern.

“It doesn’t mean the bridge is dangerous or is going to fall down,” he said.

The city evaluates its bridges every other year, looking at the state of the structure, deck and other pieces of the bridge. With the Gilbert Street bridge, Havel said the deck is in need of repair.

“The deck was one piece that we were looking at having to do some repairs if we weren’t going to do a replacement,” Havel said. “It isn’t unsafe, it’s going to need some repairs.”

Actual work on the bridge is likely two years away, at least, Havel said. By accepting the DOT funding, the city can move forward with designing the new bridge. Havel said the new bridge will likely have a simple design similar to what currently exists.

The city also will have to consider how to stage construction, and Havel said the work will eventually have an impact on traffic on that corridor. The city will work to mitigate the effects the replacement has on traffic, but disruptions are inevitable.

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“At some point, there’s only so much you can do and there are going to be impacts,” Havel said.

While the Burlington Street bridge was also eligible for DOT funding, Havel said the city can only accept funds for one project. Because the Burlington Street bridge replacement would be larger in scope and cost, the city opted to focus on the Gilbert Street bridge first, Havel said.

“It’s going to take a much larger project to replace (the Burlington Street bridge),” Havel said. “It’s one we’re planning for and we continue to evaluate. It’s on our radar.”

• Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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