Mississippi River Crossing Needs and Other Crossing Strategies
Mississippi River crossings continue to be the highest transportation priority in the Quad Cities with over 170,000 vehicles crossing the Mississippi River on an average day and almost half of these crossings on the I-74 Bridge alone. The economy of the Quad Cities depends on adequate crossing capacity as we seek to exhibit a market population of 375,000. Based on U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey data, approximately 27% of the Quad Cities’ resident labor force, work outside of their home county. This includes those who travel across state lines for their job. Over 20 percent of those employed work outside of their state of residence. The I-74 Bridge is extremely important to the commerce of the area. Interstate 74 is the major north/south corridor in the Quad City area and provides for the movement of people and goods to employment centers, entertainment venues and commercial and industrial sites. The I-74 Bridge provides access to one of the few military arsenals in the United States, Rock Island Arsenal. It is also important to the economy of the States of Illinois and Iowa as it provides for interstate commerce and connections to major U.S. markets. The Quad Cities has a 37.4 million person market area within a 300-mile radius that includes almost 13 percent of the nation’s population. There is an urgent need to address congestion on the I-74 Bridge. This bridge is carrying almost 78,000 vehicles per day and is significantly over capacity. The bridge itself is functionally obsolete and is not constructed to acceptable standards for Interstate driving conditions. The bridge has no shoulders and the ramps nearest the bridge have inadequate weaving lanes. Approximately 125 crashes occur on and near the I-74 Bridge in a one year period. Improvements to address these capacity and safety concerns are necessary.
Download the I-74 Mississippi River Crossings Brochure
Background on the Crossing Strategy
To examine Quad Cities crossing needs, a study was conducted between 1996 and 1998 that culminated in the identification of three crossing improvements in the Quad Cities. These included removal of the tolls on the Centennial Bridge, adding capacity/lanes in the I-74 Bridge corridor and constructing a new bridge halfway between the existing I-74 and I-80 bridges. Although work toward implementation of the three crossing improvements is expected to move forward concurrently, it is understood by both public and private sector leaders, the actual completion will occur incrementally depending on the complexity and availability of funding for each effort. It is also felt that this three-phased approach will address crossing needs well into this century for 25-50 years.
Centennial Bridge/Short Term Efforts: The removal of the tolls on the Centennial Bridge was completed in the short term to relieve some congestion on the I-74 Bridge. Traffic on the Government Bridge was also relieved. The Iowa and Illinois DOT's worked with the Cities of Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois to accept ownership of the Centennial Bridge, which is also designated as U.S. Highway 67. Removal of tolls allowed the bridge to be more fully utilized reducing traffic on other crowded bridges. Tolls were removed in 2003 with the transfer of jurisdiction completed in 2005.
Another short term effort includes the use of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technology to handle non-recurring incidents like crashes and disabled vehicles. An ITS study was conducted for the I-74 corridor which identified signage and advanced warning system projects that will improve operation in the corridor both before and after the I-74 project is complete.
I-74/Mid Term Efforts: Improvements of the capacity and operation of the I-74 corridor itself is seen as a need that can be addressed in the mid-term due to the complexity of the problems as noted earlier. The I-74 Corridor Study, has examined solutions designed to improve traffic flow and address safety issues along the I-74 corridor. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been completed and the Final EIS has begun. The project is being funded jointly by the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation in close coordination with other federal and state agencies and local officials. The appropriation of almost $15 million in federal funds over the past few years has made these efforts possible.
Implementation of this project will be complicated: a new wider bridge structure will be needed, along with major improvements to interchanges. Projects of this complex nature take time but because this corridor is an interstate and is identified on the National Highway System it is felt that federal funds are more likely available for the improvement. The preliminary engineering effort and final EIS is expected to be complete by mid 2007. Although refined project costs are still being developed it is estimated that, due to the size and complexity of the project, funding in the next transportation act the current act and along with multi-year funding will be required.
New Bridge Between East Moline and Bettendorf/Long Term Efforts: Finally, crossing capacity east of I-74 is needed for the nine-mile un-served area of the Quad Cities. An origin destination analysis conducted with the 1996-1998 Crossing Study noted above, showed a strong desire for a crossing in the eastern half of the metropolitan area. This would encourage appropriate land use development and infill of the urban area. Unfortunately, while this bridge provides access to an un-served area of our community, the bridge would not significantly relieve traffic on the I-74 bridges. The Crossing Study showed only 2000 vehicles per day would deter to this bridge.
This bridge is not on a state or federal highway or on the National Highway System; therefore, acquisition of state or federal dollars for both construction and maintenance is less likely. In fact, following the completion of the crossing study, the Secretary of the Illinois DOT and the Director of the Iowa DOT sent a joint letter to Quad City officials stating “… it is our belief that the discussion of this project in the context of a short-range program is premature. However, because of strong local support, the project could be identified as a long-term need”.
In 1999 Quad City local governments agreed, through the Transportation Policy Committee, on a strategy to consider the feasibility of creating a transportation authority that would utilize a locally imposed sales tax to construct the bridge and address other roadway needs. Through the efforts of a task force of local leaders and local government funding, a public survey of 1,000 adults in Scott and Rock Island Counties was conducted. Results showed that over 70 percent of persons surveyed supported this concept. A location study would be needed for the East Bridges. In addition, both federal and state legislative language to form a Transportation Authority.
Adequate Mississippi River Crossing capacity is imperative for the long term transportation needs and economic viability of the Quad Cities. Through a rigorous alternatives analysis, required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Quad City leaders have determined and approved work on three major improvements that span short, mid and long term efforts. Although work can occur concurrently on all three projects, these time frames consider project readiness, feasibility and funding. In the short term, the tolls have been removed from the Centennial Bridge relieving traffic on the I-74 Bridge. Additionally in the short term, Intelligent Transportation System technologies such as improved signage and traveler incident advisories will be implemented in the I-74 corridor. In the mid term, improvements to the I-74 corridor would be studied, designed and constructed to address safety and capacity concerns. Federal funding for this interstate corridor has been secured for study and design and approximately $70 million has been secured in SAFE TEA-LU. A long term crossing improvement is the construction of a bridge in the East Moline/Bettendorf area. Although this bridge does not significantly relieve traffic in the I-74 corridor, it does provide access across the river where there is a nine-mile crossing gap. Funding for this project would likely be from local sources and a transportation authority funding concept is being considered.
Current I-74 Information
The firm of CH2M Hill is conducting a preliminary engineering study to improve the capacity of I-74 as one of the major crossing needs in the Quad City area.
For more information about Please visit: I-74 Iowa-Illinois Corridor Study home page