New Iowa City bridge raises safety concerns - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New Iowa City bridge raises safety concerns

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A new bridge in Iowa City is drawing concerns over its safety shortly upon opening after seeing some pedestrians choose to take the high route.

The Park Road Bridge opened on August 30, but concerns followed shortly after. A photo circulating on social media shows five men walking on top of its arches, high above the pedestrian path below it. Below the arches is only cement, no water to cushion any falls.

The new bridge is a part of the city's two-year Gateway Project, where portions of Dubuque Street were raised to reduce the number of closures due to flooding.

"In 2008, it created a dam with the flood and it created about 14 inches of backwater," Melissa Clow, Iowa City special project administrator, said. "So, it caused additional flooding upstream."

The design of the bridge is now raising eyebrows following the photo. 

"It was not the city's intention that it would be used that way. It wasn't designed for that. It's concerning to us as well as everyone else," Clow said.

The arches slope right onto the wide sidewalk, making it easy to walk up.

"Arch protection was briefly discussed during the design process. Two options were provided, but neither would prevent those wanting to get on the arch from doing so. Because of this, it was determined that nothing would be done in conjunction with design," Clow said.

The arches are to serve a purpose and are not a simple design element of the bridge.

"The arch actually does support the bridge deck," Clow said. "As far as hydraulics go, this bridge is much more conducive to moving flood water."

Clow said the city chose the arch design because it allows a bridge to be thinner.

The city was notified about people walking over the arches. Since then, a temporary fence was put up at the ends to try and prevent people from going up them. On Friday morning September 14, signs will be put up warning people to stay off the arches.

"We have an ongoing conversation with the design consultants at this time to go through and look at our options and see what's possible for a permanent solution," Clow said.

The bridge which passes over the Iowa River is located right off the University of Iowa campus near student housing such as the Mayflower Residence Hall.

Ryan Graff, a senior at Iowa, lives in fraternity house near the bridge. Thursday was the first time Graff had seen the photo.

"Definitely not safe, but it's awesome," Graff said. "I can't say that I didn't think about doing the same thing."

Graff said he personally hasn't seen anyone walk over the arches.

"I can see where it can run into problems," he said.

In the meantime, the city warns that it is trespassing to go up on them. Clow said police will be increasing their patrols of the area.

A permanent fix solution is expected to be brought to the city by next week.

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