Environmentalist icon, Quad City native, and President of Living Lands and Waters Chad Pregracke unveiled a project to repurpose the I-80 bridge to bring new interest to the Quad Cities from the local and national level by turning it into a wildlife view and tourist spot.
The proposal follows a study from the Illinois Department of Transportation into a replacement for the 55-year-old bridge, and Pregracke saw the news as an opportunity.
The project, known as Bison Bridge, which Pregracke announced in a 6:30 p.m. livestream on Thursday, March 18 dubbed "A Historic Night in the Quad Cities", would involve turning the current bridge into a land bridge with several notable features for tourists and locals alike.
Its flagship icon would be a Bison preserve that goes across the bridge itself, also using 100 acres of land around the bridge as their grazing area. Bison would be able to roam free in the area and across the bridge from Illinois to Iowa.
The complex would also have a pedestrian wildlife viewing area and walkway, rentable event space, a visitor's center, a picturesque view of the river valley and neighboring towns of LeClaire, Iowa and Rapids City, Illinois.
"“This will help put the Quad Cities on the map, literally. It will be an iconic stop on Interstate 80 to the 42,000 people who cross it each day,” said Pregracke. "“This would be the longest wildlife bridge in the world. We’re not building a bridge. We’re just trying to save what is there.”
Pregracke says that he's been working on the project for two-and-a-half years, assembling a team for the newly-created Bison Bridge Foundation to pitch the concept to key decision makers in the area. In the future, he would also want to make a push for Bison Bridge to become a national park.
In the livestream, Pregracke noted that inspiration for the project came from several angles.
- Declining population and interest in the Quad Cities over the past several decades
- The bridge's position on I-80, which is an important component of cross-country travel, making it a first and last impression or the area for tens of thousands of travelers every day.
- Pregracke specifically cited the Big Four Bridge in Louisville, Kentucky, which has become a notable and important place in that city after a similar repurposing and revitalization project.
The Bison Bridge Foundation's first goal is to collect the signatures of 50,000 supporters to show interest and passion for the project.
More information about the project, a video demonstration, and the signature collection form can be found at BisonBridge.org.