MOLINE -- The Moline Park Board want to replace Sylvan Island Bridge, but says it doesn't have the money to do it.|
During a special meeting Friday, thepark board voted to replace the 141-year-old bridge and forward its recommendation to the city council. The park department closed the bridge -- the only pedestrian access to the 35-acre natural area -- in April because of safety concerns.
A recent structural engineering report from Missman Inc., found the bridge unsafe and offered estimates of $1.2 million to replace it and $1.8 million to repair it.
Park and recreation director Laura Duran said true costs won't be known until the project is bid. Funding for replacement, and the timing, would be up to the city council. She said there is no money in the park and recreation budget to pay for replacement or repair. The department's annual budget is $3 to $4 million.
"You folks are custodians of a real unique place," Curtis Roseman, an urban geographer and local historian, told the park board.
Sylvan Island was created when a channel was cut to allow two sites to generate water power, allow Moline to grow substantially, Mr. Roseman said, adding that the bridge is the oldest on the Mississippi River in the same place it was first installed.
He said he was dismayed by the estimate for repair and asked the board to get a second estimate. If the bridge must be replaced, please consider a variety of bridge types, he told the board.
Mr. Roseman also asked that if the bridge is replaced, could a span of the current bridge be put on display on the island?"You have a unique place with natural history and remnants, too. You should think this through and do the right thing."
Harris Elias, a member of Friends of Off Road Cycling, told the board he was encouraged by the consensus. "Everyone is saying how unique and important Sylvan Island is. Everyone is making bridge repair or replacement a priority."
As for repair, he said he is worried about "cost creep"as more issues could be discovered once work got underway. Mr. Elias said he did some online research and could find no one who specializes in bridge preservation.
He said he supported replacement and suggested other ways a new bridge could be made to look historic.
Mr. Elias said the island trails built by FORC are nationally-ranked and the entire natural area is very unique, so much so it could contribute to additional tourism and economic development.
Park board president Chip Nelson said the balance the members had to strike was between "the length of time it will take to re-open a gem on the river or how much time we spend analyzing the alternatives."
Board member Nichole Jones said the board wants to honor the past and there may be ways to accomplish that and replace the bridge. "We have the opportunity in front of us to make (Sylvan Island) more a gem and draw more people to the island."
The board is recommending a 12-foot wide replacement bridge to accommodate 15-ton vehicles.
The park board applied for a state grant to pay for 80 percent of the cost of a new bridge. It can take up to six months before the city is notified if it will receive funding.
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