Closing Centennial Bridge seen as good and bad all at once

Posted on: 4:43 pm, December 5, 2013, by , updated on: 10:16am, December 6, 2013

A major project next year will impact nearly every single person who drives in and around the Quad Cities.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Bi-State Regional Commission say Centennial Bridge will shut down for around 30 days in summer 2014, probably in late July through the month of August.

News 8 sat down with Gena McCullough, Planning Director of the Bi-State Regional Commission, on Thursday, December 5th, 2013. She says the bridge is still safe to drive across and warning people about the project now is “an alert, not an alarm.”

“We’ve seen the experience of other communities that have had catastrophic bridge failures and so making sure that we’re doing the repairs in a timely fashion so that they’ll continue to carry the traffic that we have today and the future is very important.”

John Wegmeyer, with the Illinois Department of Transportation, says during bridge inspections earlier this year, crews found two steel beams underneath the bridge’s expansion joints that need to be replaced. The beams go across all four lanes of the bridge, which is why the entire span will need to be shut down during the project.

Wegmeyer tells News 8 if they don’t do the repairs soon, there could be some major problems in the future causing them to close the bridge for an even longer period of time.

“It’s a repair that’s necessary to prevent future problems so it’s preventative maintenance,” McCullough agreed. “It’s not anything for residents to be concerned about, but something we need to address.”

McCullough says there is also a project next year on Interstate 74 at the State Street off-ramp and they are trying to avoid those two projects from happening at the same time. She also says repairs on the Centennial Bridge will help the expected increase in traffic when the new I-74 Bridge is under construction.

“Both the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation are trying to coordinate their maintenance and construction projects,” she said.

Meanwhile, people in the downtown areas surrounding the Centennial Bridge are not looking forward to the project.

In downtown Davenport, the co-owner of Sippi’s says he’s afraid his business will go down when the bridge shuts down.

“It seems like we’re just starting to make some traction down here where we’ve got a pretty steady clientele and I think our clientele spans both sides of the river,” Frank Berner said.

The feeling is the similar on the other side of the river in downtown Rock Island. At Mama Compton’s, Chuck Knudsen says the project could cut the restaurant’s sales in half.

“For a community that’s just trying to rebuild itself, that’s like closing the door and locking it and saying – ‘Well, we’ll come get you in a little while.’”

Berner and Knudsen also say August is not an ideal time for repairs, because that’s when more people are out and about downtown.

“That’s our prime time here in the Quad Cities for visitors,” Knudsen said. “August is the big festival season. You don’t want to kill your tourist times. You want to keep it open.”

“Usually there’s not a bad month for people in the area and tourism,” Berner agreed. “I don’t know if it’s such a good idea.”