Photo courtesy Iowa DOT

After nearly five years and $1.2 billion dollars, the Interstate 74 bridge project between Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline, Illinois is finally complete — with the opening of a bicycle and pedestrian path.

George Ryan, the I-74 corridor manager, says the 14-foot wide path is fully separated from the six lanes of traffic and offers a safe way for cyclists and walkers to cross the Mississippi River.

“The trail also includes an overlook area out over the channel that’s actually a destination point,” Ryan says. “There’s a 10-foot diameter glass oculus that you can stand on and watch the river flow beneath you, as well as benches and some lighting to really make that spot a destination.”

Anyone who’s squeamish about great heights may be a little wobbly when they first approach the big, glass disc, with the Mississippi churning far below.

“People seem to be a little hesitant. I was a little hesitant myself the first time I stepped out on it,” Ryan says, laughing. “It’s perfectly safe. It’s laminated. It’s multiple layers and it’s plenty safe. It’ll hold more people than can physically stand on it.”

The bridge path is seven-tenths of a mile long and joins existing bike trails on both sides of the river.

In years to come, Ryan muses that the oculus might make a good destination for RAGBRAI riders, the next time the Quad Cities hosts the final day of the statewide bicycle ride. The path’s opening signals the close of a massive bridge project that first broke ground in July of 2017.

“Quad City residents put up with a lot of traffic detours, a lot of different construction over the past five years,” Ryan says. “They’ve responded very well to our different stages of construction and now they have a brand new pair of bridges over the interstate and a very nice corridor.”

The new bridge fully opened to traffic in December. The cities of Bettendorf and Moline are assuming maintenance responsibility of the bike and pedestrian path with a formal dedication set for May 18th. Bids will be taken soon on demolishing to old I-74 bridge nearby, a job that will likely take more than a year to complete.

UPDATE: Just days after it was dedicated, an alleged drunk driver drove onto the new path, striking three pedestrians, killing two of them. The driver is jailed.