Your Village: What’s next for the Park Road Bridge?

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Temporary barrier to prevent people from accessing the arches on the new Park Road Bridge. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Is there a plan to address the safety issues with the arches on the Park Road Bridge beyond the current fencing set-up? —Joe, Iowa City, via the Your Village feature on LV’s homepage.

The safety issues started almost as soon as the bridge opened at the end of August 2018. People were spotted walking over one of the arches that weekend. The next weekend it was a skateboarder: A video of Peyton Meiers skating down an arch attracted a lot of attention on social media after Meiers posted it on Facebook.

It also got the attention of Iowa City officials.

The Iowa City Police Department posted “No trespassing on the arches” signs. The city put up chain link fencing to inhibit access to the arches. Neither were attractive additions to the most visible part of the Iowa City Gateway Project. But Melissa Clow, special project administrator for the Iowa City Public Works Department, told Little Village the city is working on a more permanent solution.

“Our preferred timeline is to have it addressed this summer, so everything will be in place by the fall, when the students come back and the football season starts,” Clow said.

The current plan calls for concrete walls that will extend beyond the end of the arches, and concrete planters.

“We have also the new traffic signal at Park and Dubuque Streets that has traffic cameras. They have a view of the arches and can be accessed by the police,” Clow said. “We also have another camera going in on the street light on the west side of the bridge. We’ll be adding signage that lets people know there’s surveillance of the arches.”

But the plan to discourage unwanted arch pedestrians hasn’t been formalized yet, including the cost.

“We’re still working through pricing with the contractor, and hopefully we’ll be able to include it in the Gateway Project,” Clow said.

The Iowa City Gateway Project, which broke ground in 2016, was designed to help address flooding problems on Dubuque Street, Park Road and the Park Road crossing of the Iowa River in northwest Iowa City. It’s the largest flood mitigation project the city has undertaken.

Floodwaters swamped Dubuque Street for 54 days in 1993 and made it unusable for a month in 2008, as well as for three weeks in both 2013 and 2014. Flooding caused by heavy rains has also inundated the area in the past, which should be reduced or prevented by the project’s improved drainage and storm water sewers.

The new bridge was included as part of $59 million project. Aside from the changes to make the arches less accessible, construction on the project was finished last year.

Clow said that if the city cannot reach an agreement with the contractor to include the changes as part of the Gateway Project, the work will be put out for bid as a separate construction project.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 264.