New I-74 plans must bridge funding gap

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It's an aging, outdated Interstate 74 bridge connecting Bettendorf and Moline. While preliminary work to replace it is moving right along, Iowa and Illinois must join forces to build it.

"We can't build half a bridge," said Doug Rick, project manager for the Iowa Department of Transportation. "We have to work together to build the entire thing."

But as Iowa eyeballs cash-strapped Illinois, the Hawkeye state's plan to pitch in more than $60 million could be put on hold.

"If they (Illinois) don't have money programmed right now in their program, it doesn't do us much good to put money in there," Rick said.

At Tuesday's Bi-State Regional Commission's Transportation Committee, members are urging all parties involved -- Iowa, Illinois and the feds to follow through with the money. That's because any delays will drive up the already $1.2 billion cost while causing other problems.

"It's a tough project for both states," said Moline Mayor Don Welvaert. "Iowa's $60 million-plus that they're programming for their five-year transportation budget is critical to this.

Welvaert wants to meet with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn soon to resolve the bridge funding. He wants to clarify if there will be any money in the Illinois program.

Iowa needs assurances that Illinois will put in its matching share. Otherwise, it might direct some of its money to continue land purchases and right-of-way work at the ground level.

"We need to put our money where it can do us the most good," Rick said.

Iowa will decide on its transportation funding in June.

With the clock ticking to a 2016 construction start, timing is crucial, especially for Illinois.

Illinois is working on a major bridge in East St. Louis. In the Quad Cities, the new I-74 bridge remains the top transportation priority.

"The I-74 bridge is next on their agenda," Welvaert said. "But there are a lot of transportation projects that have to be sorted out. We're not done yet."

They'll be working to bridge a gap between the states before they build the real thing.