BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison officials continue to help work toward a pending bridge study to examine potential improvements to the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe double deck swingspan bridge that connects Fort Madison and Illinois.
On Wednesday morning, Fort Madison City Manager and Larry Driscoll held a meeting with a prospective engineering firm interested in bidding the study work. Requests for proposals went out from the a steering committee for the study a couple weeks ago.
“We’re just meeting with companies that are interesting in the bidding on the proposal,” Varley said. “We sent the RFPs to 15 about engineering companies and now we’re talking with companies who want to know more specifically about the city’s history with the bridge and what we’d like to see out of the study.”
Varley said the city is ready to meet with any construction or engineering firms that want to submit offers to conduct the study.
The City of Fort Madison is the lead agent for the study and will serve as the financial agent for all grants and funds used to pay for the study.
The study is projected to cost $360,000 with $288,000 being shared by the Illinois and Iowa Departments of Transportation and the city picking up the remaining $72,000. Iowa Fertilizer Co. has agreed to pay $40,000 of the city’s share. Varley said Axalta Coatings in Fort Madison has also now agreed to chip in for the cost.
“Axalta has volunteered to donate $5,000 to the cost of the study and with the $40,000 from the Iowa Fertilizer Co., the city now has 45,000 toward it’s $72,000 commitment to the study,” he said.
Members of the selection committee include Zach James of Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, Larry Driscoll and Varley from the City of Fort Madison, Felicia Morgan with BNSF, Denise Boyer with Hall Towing and the Southeast Iowa Economic and Port Authority, Darrell Allman with Iowa Fertilizer Company, and Allan Luers with Axalta Coating Systems.
In 2008, BNSF imposed a 30-ton, 60-foot embargo on trucks using the bridge due to the challenging geometry of the bridge, which impacted the distribution and ability of businesses and industries in southeast Iowa.
The group is hoping the study comes up with plans to address the configurations of the bridge that caused the embargo, and also hope it addresses approaches that could straighten out the bridge and allow for easier access on and off, which would allow full length and full load trucks to use the bridge.
The group had originally hope to have a selection firm picked by November, but Varley said it looks like that may be in January before the selection committee makes a decision. However plans to have the study underway in 2019 are still on schedule.