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New I-74 bridge set to open in early December, but work won't be completely done

Project leaders say the public will have a chance to walk on the Illinois-bound bridge span on Dec. 1, a few days before the span opens to traffic.

BETTENDORF, Iowa — Leaders with the Interstate 74 bridge project announced Monday the public will have an opportunity to walk on the new, Illinois-bound bridge span on Dec. 1, a few days before the span opens to traffic.

Project leaders said the bridge corridor project was budgeted at around $1 billion. 

I-74 corridor manager George Ryan said the project would be completed, "real close to a billion dollars, as promised."

Ryan has been overseeing the project since it started in July 2017. 

The historic piece of the Quad Cities will allow the bridge to accommodate more than 100,000 vehicles on the road each day.

"It's just a great thing for the Quad Cities and will pay dividends for years and years to come after we open it," Ryan said. "No more long lines. No more huge delays trying to get across narrow bridges that you're not comfortable to drive on."

In fact, the new bridge is around two and a half times wider than the old bridge. The old bridge is only 28-feet wide, and only has two lanes with no shoulders. The new bridge is 72-feet wide with four lanes and full shoulders on both spans. 

Ryan says the bridge design will allow for more safety on the bridge.

"If you get on on Grant Street in Bettendorf and you want to get off on River Drive in Illinois, you never have to get out into the other lanes of traffic," Ryan said. "If you want to get into other lanes you’ve got the whole length of the bridge to get over, and anyone that’s trying to get off has the whole length."

But even though the bridge construction is almost complete, there is still work to be done.

"There’s still electrical work to do, hooking up some of the aesthetic lights and like on the eastbound side," Ryan said.

Off the driving lanes, there is still work to do there, too. There are three major projects that project leaders are still working on.

"One of them is the demolition of the old bridges, one of them is the landscape contract and the other is the elevator contract," Ryan said.

Ryan said contracts for demolition of the old bridge will not go out until this spring. He does expect explosives to be used for at least the center span of the old bridge.

RELATED: What will happen to the old bridge?

Access to the old bridge will close the same day the new ones open. Barricades will be placed on the on and off ramps on State Street and River Drive.

The landscaping projects, which will happen on both the Iowa and Illinois sides of the river, will add parks and trails, and connect with the bike and pedestrian path on the bridge.

"The landscape project could take up to a couple years, so you know it’s a long-term thing to get those done," Ryan said.

The bike path is expected to open by the end of the year, however the elevator project in Bettendorf is more than a year away from completion, Ryan said.

The glass oculus will also take a little extra time. Ryan said when the bridge opens, there will be a temporary plug in its place. He expects the oculus to be installed sometime in January. 

RELATED: Oculus glass installed for I-74 Bridge pedestrian and bike path

The multicolored LED lights that they've been testing on the Iowa bound span will also not be ready on the Illinois bound span until the springtime. 

Ryan said the westbound span will be lit up closer to early January, but the lights won't be a more permanent fixture until they're both up and running. 

"The problem is that both bridges have to be hooked up, and there's actually a remote shut off and on that barges use," Ryan said. "It's not safe to have the lights on for very long at night, because of river traffic, they can actually remotely turn them off when they come through. But that remote won't work until they're both connected, so we're trying to determine how to deal with those issues at this point in time."

The public is invited to walk across the new bridge on Dec. 1 from 1-4 p.m. The ceremony is only accessible from the Moline side of the bridge. Pedestrians will walk up the River Driver ramp, and there is free parking and limited shuttle service at the TaxSlayer Center at 12:30 p.m.