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THIS WEEK: Bringing a billion dollar bridge project to an end

The Interstate 74 bridge project has unique features to keep it in good shape for 100 years

MOLINE, Ill. — The twin spans of the old Interstate 74 bridge stood watch over the Mississippi River since the Iowa bound bridge was completed in 1935 and the Illinois one in 1959.

But the bridges, a little more than a mile in length, became obsolete, unable to fully handle 80,000 vehicles a day when they were made to handle 48,000 at the most.

"I've seen a lot of bad bridges. This is one of the worst," said former US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a 2012 Quad City visit.     

And it would remain so almost a decade later as a signature replacement bridge made with a basket handle design was built along side it to replace the old twin spans.

But those twin spans will no longer be needed shortly after a December 1, 2021 "public celebration".

{Actual vehicle traffic on the new span of the bridge won't be allowed until days later.)

"No more long lines, no more huge delays trying to get over narrow bridges that you're not comfortable to drive on," predicted Interstate 74 Corridor project manager George Ryan on "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens".

Listen to the entire interview with George Ryan on THE CITIES PODCAST.

In early December 2021 the new Interstate 74 bridge, complete with wide lanes for traffic, pedestrian and bicycle lanes, and billion dollar price tag for the entire project, will be open to the public.

"It's just a great thing for the Quad Cities and it will pay dividends for years and years to come," said Ryan.

But it's come at a price.

Gone are landmarks like the old Moline train depot and Bettendorf's original Ross' Restaurant that was a draw for candidates and Presidents.

But also gone are the bridge stopping fender benders and accidents, the detours, and that "zipper merge" that we hated but were told to do. 

"It's just a great thing for the Quad Cities and it will pay dividends for years and years to come," said Ryan.

And the bridge will have some unique features that Ryan says will keep it in good shape over the next 100 years.

Ryan says crews used stainless steel reinforcements which should cut down on pot holes in the future.

And there's a sensor system to monitor the health of the bridge.

"There's also a system of pipes underneath the bridge so they can wash the bridge from underneath much easier and more effectively, thus they'll rinse it more so that the deposits that end up on beams under bridges don't damage the beams," said Ryan.

But Ryan says the biggest accomplishment is the safety history during construction.

Though 450 people were working at the site at the height of construction, there were no fatalities on the job.

"I think the workers have really delivered something very special to the Quad Cities.".

Watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sundays at 10 a.m. on WQAD News 8.