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News track: Iowa City's Park Road Bridge to gain attractive barriers

Planters and railings aim to keep people off its arches

Signs and fences now warn people to stay off the arches of Iowa City’s new Park Road Bridge. The arches attracted some daredevils when the bridge opened in September 2018, prompting the city to add the fences and warnings. The city will be adding planters — and smaller signs — next spring that are more in keeping with the bridge’s aesthetics. (Lee Hermiston/The Gazette)
Signs and fences now warn people to stay off the arches of Iowa City’s new Park Road Bridge. The arches attracted some daredevils when the bridge opened in September 2018, prompting the city to add the fences and warnings. The city will be adding planters — and smaller signs — next spring that are more in keeping with the bridge’s aesthetics. (Lee Hermiston/The Gazette)
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BACKGROUND

It didn’t take long for visitors to Iowa City’s new Park Road Bridge — which opened to vehicles and pedestrians on Sept. 1, 2018 — to test the structure for unintended purposes.

In the days following the bridge’s opening, the city became aware of “various social media posts featuring dangerous use of the new bridge’s arches,” according to a news release from the city.

One such video depicted a skateboarder coming down an arch.

In response, the city placed no trespassing signs on the bridge. In September, the city placed fencing at the four corners of the arches. Those fences have remained in place since.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE

“Being in a college town, there are things that catch you by surprise,” said Ron Knoche, Iowa City’s public works director. “In this case, I think the desire of folks to be climbing on the arches was not something we really thought would occur. ... We learned quickly that folks felt otherwise.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s disappointing, but it’s also part of the process.”

Now, however, the city has plans to keep would-be daredevils off the arches while trying to maintain the aesthetics of the new bridge put in place as part of the Gateway Project, designed to mitigate the city’s chances of future flooding.

Knoche said the city worked with the bridge’s designer, HNTB, to discuss approaches to the arches problem.

The solution that emerged is adding planters at the bottom of each arch. A railing will be on top of the four planters and that railing will match the look of the bridge’s barrier rail between the street and the sidewalk.

“We’re going to mimic that type of look,” Knoche said.

Knoche said signage also will be placed warning against trespassing or climbing the arches, though it won’t necessarily be as prominent as the signage currently in place.

The next steps are for the city to accept the work that’s been done on the Gateway Project and take ownership of the bridge, Knoche said.

He said the arch work could be bid out over the winter and finished in the spring. The estimate from consultants is for the project to cost $25,000 to $30,000, though Knoche said that could be on the low end.

“I’m not certain that estimate is high enough,” he said. “We may be anywhere from that price range up to $75,000 to $80,000.”

Despite the work to be done to ensure the safety, the Park Road Bridge and Gateway Project have been a success for the city, Knoche said.

“We’ve seen a few flood events and potential events come forward,” he said. “It’s obvious the Gateway Project, from a mitigation standpoint, has already met the demands that are going to be put upon it.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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