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Pedestrian tunnel planned for Riverside Drive in Iowa City

Tunnel will cut below railroad line to extend sidewalk

Downtown Iowa City in an aerial photograph in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (The Gazette file photo)
Downtown Iowa City in an aerial photograph in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (The Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — Improvements are planned for a stretch of South Riverside Drive to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Assistant City Engineer Scott Sovers said the city intends to extend a 6-foot sidewalk south from the intersection of South Riverside Drive and Myrtle Avenue so it connects with a sidewalk already on the west side of South Riverside Drive.

There’s just one obstacle — an 80-foot-wide embankment supporting an Iowa State Rail line that crosses South Riverside Drive. So, the city plans to tunnel through it.

Sovers said the tunnel and sidewalk improvements are necessary to improve pedestrian safety.

“What is happening now is people get to the end of the sidewalk on the south side of the embankment because they’re presumably moving north on Riverside Drive and they cut between the curb and embankment,” Sovers said. “It’s fairly close (to the street) there. Pedestrians are too close to traffic. We’re trying to provide a safe walk for pedestrians to use.”

An 8-foot-by-9-foot tall tunnel through the embankment will keep pedestrians away from the street. The tunnel also will be lighted, Sovers said.

Pedestrian traffic has increased in that area of South Riverside Drive, Sovers said. A large apartment complex and Kum & Go recently were built just south of the railroad embankment.

“We’re starting to see a lot more folks wanting to cross the railroad tracks and get over to the trail on the west side of the river,” he said.

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Sovers said the project is estimated at just under $1 million. It will require a public hearing and City Council approval before going to bid. Sovers said he hopes to go to bid this fall and begin construction this winter with an eye on connecting the sidewalks next spring or summer.

The tunnel is part of several improvements to the South Riverside Drive and Myrtle Avenue intersection. In the last year, the city widened South Riverside Drive to add a northbound left turn lane at Myrtle Avenue. Traffic lights were installed at the intersection in addition to a pedestrian refuge area to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the intersection.

Sovers said the traffic signal should improve the flow of traffic from Myrtle onto Riverside.

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

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