New bridge project is main topic of Lansing City Council meeting

by Julie Berg-Raymond

The Lansing City Council received some encouraging new information about the new bridge project from a representative of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) during its regular meeting Monday, June 6.

While estimates of a road closure while the new bridge at Lansing is being constructed had earlier been in the three- to five-month range, Brennan Dolan, cultural resources and team lead/tribal liaison with the Iowa DOT, told the council at its June 6 meeting the three- to five-month estimate is being considered a “worst-case scenario.”

In an email after the council meeting, Assistant District Engineer for District 2 with the Iowa DOT, Nick Humpal, confirmed this. “We heard several concerns from citizens, city staff, school officials and took those comments back to the drawing board for consideration to further minimize the bridge closure,” Humpal wrote in the email. “We understand the concerns and are working to reduce the overall closure period of the bridge as much as possible. Traffic will still be interrupted as we cannot construct the new bridge without some type of lane closures and possibly even a bridge closure. We are in the process of reviewing all the necessary stages and traffic control set-ups to minimize the overall disruptions to traffic and reduce the timeframe the bridge may need to be closed.”

Humpal noted the DOT is continuing through the final design of the bridge and roadway plans and at this time it does not have a final staging and traffic control plan available. He indicated final plans will be ready in May of 2023.

During the June 6 council meeting, Dolan briefly identified the four historic bridge mitigation stipulations agreed upon in the October 2021 Memorandum of Agreement with the City. He attended the council meeting to ask a question regarding the fourth stipulation, in particular - he wanted to ask about any interest the City might have in salvaging the western portal of the Black Hawk Bridge, and noted that some communities have used these as portals to hiking trails, etc.

The mitigation stipulations Dolan identified are: 1) To build a bridge with a design similar to (but not the same as) the historic Black Hawk Bridge; 2) The development of a short mini-documentary that focuses on history of the bridge, stakeholders, and the project process for public education - and for which the DOT will be seeking community involvement; 3) The completion of some capstone-type research on the bridge, in an effort to answer some lingering research questions; and 4) The retaining of a few elements of the bridge.

Dolan indicated the three following items will be retained by the contractor: 1) All four center span connection pins (two to Iowa, two to Wisconsin); 2) End of a select eye bar, approximately 24” (Iowa DOT; Bridge Bureau); 3) McClintic-Marshall 1931 date plaque (Iowa DOT; Bridge Bureau).

Dolan further indicated the following four items also may be retained, pending reasonable interest and discussion: 1) The west portal (City of Lansing); 2) the cantilevered/center span panel (City of Lansing/Allamakee County); 3) select gusset plate (Iowa DOT; Bridge Bureau); and 4) a small section of vertical member with baton plate(s), approximately 24” (Iowa DOT; Bridge Bureau). These items are currently considered “non-committal” - meaning that there is no formal plan or “home” for any of them, but that at least one stakeholder has asked about each of them.

Dolan said the Iowa DOT is open to adding to the list, but that final ideas and plans would need to be in place by early fall at the latest, because demolition plans are in the process of being developed. He said he would be returning to Lansing in 30 days, and expressed appreciation for the Lansing community.

“I work with bridge projects all around the state,” he said, “and it’s been really fun to work with your community - they’re really engaged.”

The Iowa DOT provided the council with an updated estimate for re-doing the water and sewer lines underneath the new section of road, as part of the bridge replacement project. The new estimate is $240,000, up from its earlier estimate of $192,000. Humpal had earlier made clear to the council that the DOT is only responsible for the grading and paving of the highway leading up to the new bridge and the City of Lansing is responsible for the underlying infrastructure. The project will be let in early August of 2023, and construction will start shortly after. After completion of the project, the City will be billed for its portion of the costs; payment can be spread out over three to four years.

The council voted to hire Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), Inc., of Stillwater, MN to put together a plan for lighting the new bridge. Project Manager Ken Taillon, attending the June 6 council meeting via Zoom, described in a handout the two lighting system options the City is considering:

Option 1 “consists of a lighting system very similar to that of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal. The internal structure of the bridge would be illuminated with color-changing, flood-style luminaires, and piers 1 and 2 would be illuminated by static, white, grazing luminaires. Two illuminated spikes would be placed on each of the two highest points along the top cords of the structure (four spikes total).”

Option 2 “consists of a lighting system very similar to that which is currently in place on the existing Black Hawk Bridge. Direct view, static white luminaires would be placed above the top cord of the structure … Piers 1 and 2 would be illuminated by static, white, grazing luminaires. An estimate also will be prepared that details color-changing luminaires along the top cord.”

“We are waiting to get the (cost) proposals for each lighting option from SEH,” Mayor Melissa Hammell said in a text after the council meeting. “Once we get those, the bridge lighting committee will decide which option to go with. We anticipate they will have those proposals and a decision made by the end of (this) week.”

In a split vote, the council voted to not approve payment of $480 for pool deck chairs. Councilman Curtis Snitker voted yes; Councilmen Mike Manning and Steve Murray voted no. Councilpersons Bruce ReVoir and Lisa Welsh were not present.

Councilman Manning indicated his “no” vote was because he believed proper procedure was not followed, in making this purchase. “The purchase had already been made and we were being billed for it, before approval to purchase,” he said. In an email after the meeting, Councilman Murray indicated he voted “no” because “this was an item that was proposed for the 2023 budget year, not for the current fiscal year. We have spent a lot of money renovating the pool over the last few years and I felt that this is something that was not as important as some other requests.”

The council did approve spending up to $500 to purchase two 15’ by 19’ sunshades and hardware to use as covers over the changing/restrooms at the pool guard house. “This is a safety concern since it was reported that some other pools had an issue with drones being flown over open bathrooms and infringing on the privacy of the swimmers,” Councilman Murray indicated in his email.

In other Parks business, the council approved payment of $8,000 to Damon Construction, of New Albin, for work on the pool project. The following hires were also approved: Jaylyn Walleser as a lifeguard at $11.25/hour (second-year guard); Mallory Mohn as a lifeguard at $11.25/hour (second-year guard); Luciana Welsh as a lifeguard at $11/hour (first-year guard); and Eliza Welsh as a lifeguard at $11/hour (first-year guard). The council approved offering standing board members of the Park and Recreation Board, the Marina Board, and the Library Board one 10-punch, non-transferable pool pass for the 2022 season in recognition of their contribution to the City of Lansing. Additionally, the council approved installing a sign on the concession stand, advertising the sports complex. The 4’ by 8’ metal sign will be attached to the side of the building next to the road and will be paid for by Councilman Murray.

The council approved RAGBRAI Lansing Chair Ian Zahren’s request to install the RAGBRAI banners downtown, with Street Superintendent Ken Ripp’s help; and he advised council members that between 24 and 40 riders would be in town Saturday, June 11, completing their “pre-ride” during which the route is checked prior to RAGBRAI. Finally, he explained plans for the charter buses in town July 30, prior to the ride: The buses will be parked up and down Main Street from 4th to 7th Streets, pointing west. All charters will be directed west out of town. At the next Council meeting, Zahren will present the council with a proposal for placement of the Penske trucks that ship their bikes.

In other business, the council approved the following: Liquor license permits for the Lansing Fire Department; Resolution #969 Plat of Survey; the addition of Linny Emrich to the Library Board; a $.25 raise for lawn mowing employees Mark Rethwisch and Terry McKinley; trimming trees on Main Street and Center Street (12’ above the road, 8’ above sidewalks).

The next regular meeting of the Lansing City Council is scheduled for Monday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at Lansing City Hall.