Icy bridge conditions and wrecks jam I-74 in both directions

Several wrecks backed up traffic and blocked lanes for hours on the I-74 bridge over the Mississippi River.

Bettendorf Police warned motorists to avoid the bridge after multiple crashes resulted in long backups on I-74 on Monday, February 3, 2014.  Wrecks closed the Illinois-bound lanes at about 10 a.m., and they had Illinois-bound lanes reopened before noon.

The problems actually began much earlier in the morning.

Around 7:30 a.m. Monday, drivers began reporting problems trying to get across the bridge.  Lanes were reportedly slick and traffic quickly slowed.

Before 8:30 a.m., Iowa-bound lanes were blocked and traffic backed up past Avenue of the Cities.  Salt trucks responded and traffic was detoured.  Illinois-bound lanes were occasionally slow as well, and conditions worsened as the morning went on.

At about 10 a.m., Illinois-bound lanes were blocked on the bridge approach at the entrance ramp from State Street in Bettendorf.   Police confirmed there were three wrecks.

The first happened when a driver reportedly made an illegal lane change to try to exit, causing other drivers to swerve and slam on their brakes, resulting in a chain-reaction crash.  A second crash was reported at the top of the entrance ramp from State Street and another wreck was reported in the backup.

In total, Bettendorf Police said 31 vehicles were involved in the three wrecks and 12 people were taken to area hospitals.  Police said icy conditions on the bridge also contributed to the wrecks.

A spokesperson for Genesis Medical Center said patients treated at their facilities were all expected to be treated and released Monday.

They got the Illinois-bound lanes reopened to traffic before noon.

Iowa-bound traffic remained backed up past downtown Moline, so police closed access to I-74 north of Avenue of the Cities.  They forced Iowa-bound traffic to exit at Avenue of the Cities and lowered the barricade to prevent traffic from entering Iowa-bound I-74 from Avenue of the Cities.

All Iowa-bound lanes of I-74 were open by about 12:30 p.m., but the barricade remained lowered on the Avenue of the Cities entrance ramp until it was lifted at 1:15 p.m.

StormTrack 8 Chief Meteorologist James Zahara said there was visible steam rising from the Mississippi River as temperatures were below zero Monday morning.  It was possible that the steam froze on the bridge deck and contributed to slick conditions.

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