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Project Profile: I-74 Mississippi River Bridge

I-74 brings major transformation to the Quad City area.

By Editorial Staff

Connecting the states of Iowa and Illinois, the I-74 is an important east-west link in the nation’s transportation network. The I-74 corridor serves as the primary crossing of the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area, carrying more than 45% of total vehicular traffic across the river. 

The old I-74 suspension bridge, officially named the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge, crosses the Mississippi River on two separate structures. The westbound bridge, Illinois to Iowa, was completed and opened in 1935. 

The eastbound bridge, Iowa to Illinois, was completed in 1959 and opened in 1960 and these river bridges became a part of the Interstate 74 system in the 1970s. With their narrow lane widths and lack of shoulders, these bridges were a major contributor to congestion problems in the Quad Cities. 

The population and employment growth over several decades have led to a major increase in traffic volume. The Iowa and Illinois departments of transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Bi-State Regional Commission (the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Quad Cities area), and local municipalities, joined forces to address these transportation issues and develop a plan for a new structure that would better serve the communities. 

“We are pleased to deliver not only a safer, more reliable new interstate, but also a beautiful new bridge that transforms and beautifies the riverfront.” – Ahmad M. Afifeh, I-74 Project Manager, Iowa DOT. 

With this partnership, a plan was developed to reconstruct an I-74, providing a better and safer traveling experience with additional travel lanes, improved interchanges, and intersections; an improved aesthetic along the riverfront with a new iconic structure, and new bike and pedestrian facilities that make it easier for residents and visitors to explore both sides of the river. 

Roadway Capacity and Design Improvements
The new bridge is nearly double the width of the existing bridge offering four lanes in each direction, three thru-lanes, one auxiliary lane. To improve traffic flow and capacity on the rest of I-74, between Middle Road in Bettendorf and Avenue of the Cities in Moline, the interstate has been expanded to three lanes in each direction with additional turn lanes in certain locations. Significant interchange improvements were also made to improve efficiency and safety.

The project also includes interchange reconfigurations and local roadway improvements. Between Middle Road in Bettendorf and Avenue of the Cities in Moline, I-74 has been expanded to three lanes in each direction with additional lanes at select locations.

Increased Safety and Reliability
The unreliability of the old I-74 bridge has long been a common complaint. With only two lanes and no shoulders, a traffic accident or any maintenance work often required one, if not both, lanes to be closed, creating long delays for drivers. By adding more lanes, improving on- and off-ramp locations and installing new transportation management technology, the corridor will provide safer, more reliable travel.

Economic Development

Many minds came together to bring the I‐74 River Bridge project to life. The Iowa and Illinois departments of transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, in conjunction with the municipalities and the Bi-State Regional Commission, teamed up to address decades-long issues related to the existing bridge to improve safety and traffic flow in the Quad Cities. They had a vision for a state-of-the-art I-74 River Bridge – with safety and innovation leading the design.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is the lead agency for the bridge construction project and projects in Iowa. The Illinois Department of Transportation is a partner in the bridge project and the lead agency for projects in Illinois. Both agencies are working closely with the cities of Bettendorf and Moline and surrounding cities to coordinate construction.

The approximately $1 billion I-74 Mississippi River Bridge project is 88.5% federally funded by the Federal Highway Administration. Iowa and Illinois DOTs are funding their land-based contracts and splitting the cost. The City of Bettendorf and City of Moline contributed funding for the improvements within their respective cities.


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The Design

The public has been fascinated with every aspect of the project and have continued to express excitement over the structure’s beauty and ability to better serve their growing communities. Through extensive public outreach efforts, the team kept the public entertained throughout construction and gave them a sense of pride and ownership of this transformational project. 

The arch on the eastbound bridge was completed in May 2021 and the design is the most visible and unique part to the Mississippi River. It was constructed with state-of-the-art maintenance technology including a health monitoring system that will continue to keep the DOT informed of maintenance needs. Sensors placed throughout the bridge send the data to the DOT.

Other maintenance features include arch walkways and motorized inspection elements providing better access for staff to inspect and make repairs. In addition, stainless steel was used in many of the structural components of the river bridges to increase the longevity of the new structures. 

The eastbound bridge also has a distinct feature: a bike and pedestrian path on the downstream side of the bridge. The 14-foot wide multi-use path is completely separated from traffic and includes a scenic overlook. It is one of only a few multi-use paths included on interstate bridges in the U.S. 

In December 2021, they held an opening celebration inviting the public to walk on the newly completed eastbound bridge and stand under the arch seeing the structure up close. Over 5,000 people joined in the celebration, including school groups and former residents. 

“We are thrilled to work on a project that has such importance and transformational impact on the local communities,” said Ahmad M. Afifeh, I-74 Project Manager, Iowa DOT. “The communities were struggling to grow due to structures that could not meet the current and future travel demands. We are pleased to deliver not only a safer, more reliable new interstate, but also a beautiful new bridge that transforms and beautifies the riverfront.” 

The new I-74 Mississippi River Bridge is a catalyst for new opportunities in the Quad Cities and their region. The economic benefit of this transportation project will continue to unfold for generations to come.

Project Info:

Project Name: I-74 Mississippi River Bridge

Location:  Quad Cities, Iowa and Illinois (between Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline, Illinois)

Type of Product: Reconstructed river bridges and interstate system

Awards: 2017 Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Research

Month/Year Started/Completed: Construction began July 2017, bridge fully opened to traffic in December 2021; future contracts including landscaping and demolition of the old bridge are anticipated to continue through 2023

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