Comments from community meeting regarding Black Hawk Bridge recently shared with Iowa Department of Transportation

Area residents provide input on Black Hawk Bridge ... More than 70 people attended the September 12 community meeting hosted by Main Street Lansing at T.J. Hunters Banquet Hall in Lansing to discuss and provide their thoughts on the future of the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing. The meeting was spurred by an initial meeting in August where the Iowa Department of Transportation presented proposed plans for future replacement options for the Black Hawk Bridge. Comments from the September 12 meeting were gathered and collated by the Upper Explorerland Regional Commission and then recently made public and shared with the Iowa Department of Transportation and Main Street Lansing. Photo by Susan Cantine-Maxson.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Sentiments ran high at the September 12 community meeting regarding the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing. The meeting, sponsored by Main Street Lansing and moderated by Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC), offered local residents an opportunity to voice their opinions in a small group format on the future of the Black Hawk Bridge.

The Iowa Department of Transformation (DOT) had presented information about a variety of options to replace the bridge in a public meeting on August 8 and asked for public input. The purpose of the September 12 meeting was to give citizens an opportunity to discuss the future of the bridge with their neighbors.

Approximately 70 people were in attendance at T.J. Hunter’s Banquet Hall to offer their thoughts on the future of the Black Hawk Bridge. UERPC representatives collated all the notes from the various table discussions and presented the following summaries from the discussion, which have since been submitted to the Iowa DOT:

• General feeling that the bridge does not need to be replaced, or should not be replaced.
• Traffic/logistical problems with the existing bridge may be dealt with outside of replacing the bridge entirely or building it in a new location.
• A request that one of the DOT bridge alternatives involve keeping and maintaining the existing bridge.
• There are precedents, such as La Crosse, WI and Winona, MN, for keeping and maintaining existing bridges.
• The bridge is an historical icon for the Lansing community which residents take pride in. It is  a symbol of identity for the town and the historic bridge may contribute towards attracting visitors/tourists to the community, which is beneficial.
• Whatever occurs with the bridge, it is important that the small town culture and unique character of the Lansing community be protected.
• If a new bridge is built, can the existing bridge be kept in some form, as a one-way bridge next to a new one-way bridge, a bicycle/pedestrian route, etc.?
• Improvements to the existing bridge and bridge approach can be made to increase its functionality. Examples include making a one-way bridge and taking turns crossing, incorporating traffic lights, further limiting the weight/size of trucks passing over the bridge, widening the approach, etc.
• A feeling that truck traffic is difficult to accommodate with a bridge near Lansing, given constraints of the surrounding community, hills, turning parameters, etc.
• Regular vehicular traffic associated with the bridge is a positive thing for downtown Lansing/Lansing businesses. Many expressed concern regarding loss of traffic directed onto Main Street (though some expressed an interest in moving traffic away from Main Street as well).
• Pedestrian and bicycle routes should be incorporated somehow in the future, whether as an add-on to the existing bridge structure, as a re-use of the old bridge if a new is built, or included in the design of a new bridge.
• There may be solutions to deal with the issues barges are encountering in the vicinity of the Lansing bridge outside of building a new bridge or changing the location of the bridge.
• A concern that increased traffic, and potentially more trucks, associated with a new bridge could take a toll on nearby roads (e.g. Hwy. 9).
• Concern regarding the need to upsize roads/intersections connecting to a new bridge and the impact that could have on the community.
• If the bridge is re-built, how will the community be protected in the interim? Even temporary loss of traffic across the bridge could have negative impact on local business, in addition to concerns with noise and disruption of construction, etc.
• Residents need to see how the approaches will be dealt with to the existing bridge or a new bridge, to understand potential impacts to roads and structures. This is an important element to the community weighing in on what will work for Lansing.
• Historic buildings/sites near the river need to be protected in the event of a bridge project.
• If the bridge has to be rebuilt, a majority of meeting attendees would like to see it rebuilt to look like the existing Lansing bridge.
• Though many agreed that the existing bridge should be maintained if at all possible, comments regarding different DOT bridge alternatives were provided, and touched on things such as potential impacts to Main Street, the school, natural areas/the bluff, historic structures, etc.
• Concerns regarding the loss of homes or businesses should a bridge project require their removal, and the loss of tax base as a result.

In general, most people in attendance favored keeping the Black Hawk Bridge and maintaining it. Everyone agreed that it was difficult to express a preference for the placement of a new bridge without knowing the approaches that would be used and how those approaches would encroach upon residential districts, historical buildings and ecologically important areas of the river. Several felt that the bridge is such an iconic structure associated with the area that every effort should be made to keep it. Several people also stated that they would like to meet with a panel of Iowa DOT people and an engineer to answer questions about the structural integrity of the current bridge.

After the meeting, one local resident contacted the DOT with questions about the long range plans for the bridge. The DOT's representative for transportation in this area, Krista Rostad, replied with, "This bridge study and planning process will be ongoing for a couple of years before we develop a preferred alternative. We do not have ideas or even road designs beyond the 2004 feasibility study, which is all conceptual, except that we added a new alternative for consideration. That information was shown at the August 8, 2017 public meeting. Information on the alternatives will be gathered and reviewed for impacts, and we will host public meetings for input throughout the study.

"At this time, there are no funds programmed for this project in the current Five Year Program. However, the planning process will help determine type, size and location or rehabilitation so that we have an idea of what funding to program in the future. These planning processes we undertake help determine future projects statewide, typically beyond the current five-year program."

Craig White, Director of Main Street Lansing said it will be a while before the Iowa DOT takes the next step. "They will have to do another public hearing, but there is no schedule for that to happen as of yet," he said.

Links to the bridge location and design possibilities and other information presented at the August 8 meeting may be found at

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