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Mississippi Drive corridor ready for fresh look in Muscatine

MUSCATINE, Iowa -- On a picture-perfect morning, Mary and Tom Thomas are enjoying a bike ride along the Muscatine riverfront.

They're looking forward to an $8-million project that starts on Monday, May 8.

More than a decade in the works, the Mississippi Drive corridor is ready for change.

"It's an ongoing project, no doubt about it," said Mary, on Friday, May 5.  "But I think every step they take is in the right direction."

The first phase will focus on street and infrastructure improvements near the new Merrill Hotel.

Crews will actually raise the street to better match railroad tracks. They'll replace pavement with a fresh new look.

It's going to help create more of a destination than just a drive-through.

"If you're going to have people that live downtown, you have to be able to attract them downtown and make it a nice place," said Muscatine City Engineer Jim Edgmond.

The design will also improve riverfront access with decorative touches to freshen the area.

"A lot of people are drawn to rivers," said Tom Thomas. "It gets people that have never seen the Mississippi before."

The first phase will last until August 31, 2017.  But the entire project will extend into late 2018.

Canadian Pacific Railway is pumping $4-million into the project. Muscatine and Muscatine Power and Water will pay for the other half.

Muscatine hopes to make the most of its location by connecting river recreation with downtown activities.

"We're still here," said Daniel Johnson, Muscatine. "We're still up and coming."

While there will be street closures and traffic detours, Mary and Tom Thomas conclude that long term benefits will be worth temporary inconvenience.

"It was a rundown location," Mary said.  "Step by step, they're really making downtown beautiful."

To follow the project, check: http://www.bolton-menk.com/mississippidrive