- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A new companion trail bridge on the Mehaffey Bridge was temporarily opened for pedestrian use in Johnson County.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen (https://icp-c.com/1HWHpfL ) reports the bridge, which goes across the Iowa River and Coralville Lake, was open over the weekend to pedestrians and bicyclists after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday. Johnson County officials wanted to give people an opportunity to walk and bike the trail before bridge traffic became limited to motor vehicle use starting Monday, when construction on the rest of the bridge gets underway.

Bridge traffic will be restricted to a single lane with stoplight control for about 90 days. According to assistant county engineer Ed Bartels, two-way traffic should return to the bridge in July if “the weather cooperates.”

Some of the people who traveled across the 12-foot-wide bridge noted that the structure seemed too narrow to for automobile traffic, but Bartels says that the bridge was designed to accommodate such traffic when necessary.

Brian Loring, a former member for the Executive Board of Bicyclists of Iowa City and the Johnson County Regional Trails Committee, says more cyclists will be interested in riding to and from the Mehaffey Bridge because of the introduction of the companion bridge. Loring says that in the past, cyclists have found the route to be “a pretty scary ride.”



Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says that the bridge will expose North Liberty business to more bike traffic from nearby campgrounds. Wyatt also says that the trail is an important step in connecting about 118 miles of trails from Iowa City to Cedar Falls over the next few years.

Completion of the bridge has been delayed multiple times since construction began in spring 2013 due to flooding and asbestos concerns, as well as extremely cold winters.

Bartels says that asbestos was found on the 50-year-old structure, and that it will take a few days to remove the asbestos before the rest of the construction project can continue. He says the project is expected to finish slightly over its budget of $8.9 million due to the asbestos removal.

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/

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