BETTENDORF — Its size is its most striking feature.
The new Interstate 74 bridge across the Mississippi River will have eight lanes when it is completed next year.
On Friday, the four westbound lanes will open. At 72 feet wide, the span is wide enough to hold both of the old bridge’s spans, with room to spare.
The bridge’s new deck and its dramatic arch design are striking, too.
The days of white-knuckle commuting between Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline, Ill., soon will be a memory.
“It’s definitely an exciting time for the Quad Cities,” said George Ryan, Interstate 74 corridor manager. “It’s an iconic structure, no doubt about it.”
Ryan said the $1.2 billion project, which includes expansion of the interstate, remains on budget but is about a year behind schedule.
On Wednesday morning, about a dozen journalists and Chamber of Commerce and Bi-State Regional Authority representatives took walked the westbound span.
Bi-State’s Denise Bulat said she has been working on a replacement for the too-small bridge since 1994.
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“Meeting and talking about the new design feels like decades ago,” Ryan said to Bulat as the pair gazed overhead at the sweeping signature arches.
Workers climbed in and out of the arch’s person-sized portholes as they applied finishing touches to the bridge’s lighting system and gave up-close proof of the vastness of the arches’ interior.
“It’s just a great day in the Quad Cities,” Ryan said. “Motorists will have it better in the Quad Cities than they’ve had it in years. It’ll be a lot safer than it’s ever been.”
The westbound lanes periodically will accommodate eastbound traffic, too, as the eastbound span is completed in the next year.
The old bridge, which opened in 1935, will remain in use for local traffic. When the new I-74 bridge is open both ways, the old bridge will be razed.