Cedar Wapsi bridge plan draws concerns - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Wapsi bridge plan draws concerns

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The Cedar Wapsi bridge in Black Hawk County is in need of repairs, but one of the options the County has to replace the bridge is not sitting well with neighbors.

The bridge, which sits over the Cedar River, is more than 50 years old. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's analysis of transportation department data, Iowa is the worst state in the entire country when it comes to having structurally deficient bridges. A national bridge inventory published in May shows the state having 4,968 in bad shape, which is 21% of Iowa's bridges. 

The Cedar Wapsi bridge is categorized as a structurally deficient bridge, meaning it's safe to drive over, but the bridge's key elements-like the deck and substructure are in poor condition. 

A 2014 traffic count showed more than one thousand cars travel through the bridge daily. 

The Black Hawk County board of supervisors had initially voted to replace the bridge. However, when neighbors voiced their concerns, the Board decided to revisit the slated plans. 

Black Hawk County Board Supervisor Chris Schwartz says the bridge has seen its fair share of wear and tear.

"Making sure that we're taking care of our infrastructure before it gets to the point where it's really crumbling apart and really in a crisis mode," said Schwartz. "So we're trying to stay ahead of the game here in Black Hawk County."

Marilynn Stabenow who drives over the bridge everyday worries about how safe it is. Stabenow went to the town hall meeting to express her concerns with the original proposal. 

Now, there are two proposals on the table.

The first and original proposal would keep the bridge right in it's place, which means the bridge would have to close for two years. The second option is building a bridge 50 feet to the south, which would keep this bridge open during construction.

The difference in cost between the two plans is roughly $800,000. The first option is projected to cost $6.5 million, while the second alternative would total at $7.3 million.

With the cheaper option, Stabenow and neighbors would have to take a longer alternative route. The concern among neighbors is that fire, ambulance and paramedics would  be forced to take a longer, alternative route as well. 

"800,000 we realize is a lot, but how do you weigh safety and know who's going to have a heart attack?" said Stabenow. "And yes, we live out in the country, so you know response time is longer, but shutting a major road could be life or death or your house is gone. How much are one or two lives worth?"

Another concern, both Stabenow and Schwartz pointed to was that farmers who travel through the bridge with farm equipment, would have to merge onto Highway 218 which could create a potentially dangerous situation. 

"Ultimately, you know, we're putting lives at risk," said Schwartz. "So at the end of the day, I'd rather take some heat for going with a more costly option rather than having to live with a decision that I made potentially ended someone's life in an accident."

Schwartz says the option of closing the bridge would also cost the economy about $1 million, when factoring in additional travel time, and mileage for drivers and farmers. 

The final decision will be made on May 23rd with a vote at the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors meeting. 

For more information on the project and the proposals, visit the project's website.

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