Checking in with I-74 Mississippi River Bridge

July 3, 2019

Bettendorf, Iowa to Moline, Illinois

From ice to rising river levels in 2018 and 2019, working in the Mississippi has been challenging. Construction workers hop onto crew boats each day to get to the work sites, and contractors rely on barges to deliver project equipment and materials such as cranes and concrete. With extraordinary effort and patience, crews have been working through all types of weather to make the new bridge a reality. 

With the Mississippi River at a major flood stage for 45 days and counting, as well as water levels hitting a record 22.7 ft in May 2019, the high water and swift current have created additional challenges and safety concerns. Certain tasks in the river have been placed on hold for the safety of workers while the contractor focuses on tasks above water level such as decking the westbound bridge and bolting arch segments.

On land, contractors are quickly making progress toward the completion of the new westbound approaches, as well as new ramps and lanes on both sides of the river. The Moline riverfront embankment is nearly completed, and concrete will soon be poured to form the new viaduct. Three new westbound lanes in Moline and Bettendorf are anticipated to be completed by the end of 2019, and demolition of the existing westbound structures in both Moline and Bettendorf is underway.

Crews bolting in a new arch segment.

Traffic has been routed off sections of the interstate onto local roads while construction of the new westbound I-74 takes place. These detours will allow demolition for existing land structures and the expansion of westbound I-74 to three lanes. Detour routes were developed with a key goal in mind—keep the westbound bridge open to local traffic at all times. For this to be successful and also reduce traffic congestion, thru-traffic was rerouted to other interstate systems located just outside of the Quad Cities in March 2019. Local traffic must use local roads to access the bridge in Moline and take the first exit in Bettendorf after crossing the river bridge.

The Iowa and Illinois DOTs anticipate that the new Iowa-bound bridge will open to traffic in the first half of 2020. This schedule, however, is dependent on multiple factors, including weather. Flooding and fast river current continue to complicate construction. Once the arch is completed, the departments will have a more accurate depiction of the project schedule. A task force has been assembled to identify ways to minimize further delays by expediting certain tasks, such as pre-assembling the westbound arch floor system on land, combining deck pours, and completing non-traffic related items after opening the new bridge to traffic. 

The goal is to open the new Iowa-bound bridge to traffic as soon as it is safe to do so. 

In effort to keep on schedule despite challenging in-river conditions, contractors have focused on building the segmental steel bridge arches. 

About The Author: Kuehling is with Images Inc.

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