The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Replacing East Post Road bridge at Indian Creek: A case study in City Hall distrust

In City Hall, Viewpoint on March 17, 2008 at 1:01 am

Construction of a new bridge on East Post Road SE over Indian Creek was supposed to have been built in 2007, with actual construction, not counting design, engineering and consulting fees, expected to cost about $2.5 million.

It hasn’t happened. Yet.

The project is coming back around again, and on Wednesday, the City Council will discuss the project’s design and development at its 6 p.m. work session. The council typically sets aside 30 minutes for issue discussions. But for the East Post Road bridge, it’s an hour.

At the heart of the delay in building the bridge is a lack of trust in city government.

Engineers and consultants had been promoting the widening of the existing two-lane bridge to include a center left-turn lane, a sidewalk on one side, and a wider sidewalk/trail on the upstream side of the bridge. The designers have wanted the turn lane, in particular, so motorists driving north can turn on Cottage Grove Parkway SE just north of the bridge. The popular Sac and Fox Trail has a trail head at that spot, which adds to those making the turn.

However, a formidable, energized and organized opposition has rejected the plans, saying it fears the wider bridge is a pretext to widen all of the winding, two-lane East Post Road sometime in the future. They argue that insisting that the bridge remains two-lane will guarantee the road does as well.

Interestingly, some on the City Council have sounded as distrustful as the neighbors, saying, they, too, aren’t sure what future councils might do if a wider bridge is put in place.

As of last June, the city had spent about $420,000 and many, many months of work on engineering and design and on property acquisition for the bridge project.

At that point, City Manager Jim Prosser has summoned a consulting engineer from Minnesota to review what other consulting engineers had suggested.

Coming from that was an idea, among others, to erect a median barrier to prevent motorists from turning left on to Cottage Grove Parkway SE.

The council also began talking about roundabouts and also about building the trail/sidewalk structure of the proposed new bridge as a separate structure so it never could be converted into a lane of vehicle traffic by city officials someday in the future.

Roger Stone, an attorney with Simmons Perrine PLC in Cedar Rapids, has helped lead the cause for keeping East Post Road SE a two-lane, calling it “the most beautiful urban road in the state.”

Stone has been rallying for the road for a number of years, and he and the others have had major victories.

Stone’s first concern had been that the city wanted to widen East Post Road SE and then extend it south across Mount Vernon Road SE and south over the Cedar River and out to Highway 30.

In 2001, though, the city approved a new subdivision on land that the city had been setting aside for an East Post Road extension, which effectively ended the idea of extending East Post Road south.

Then in 2003, the Linn County Regional Planning Commission (now called Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization) set aside its discussions on sending East Post Road traffic a little to the east at Mount Vernon Road before sending the traffic on another nearby street – 42nd Street SE, perhaps – south to Highway 30.

A flash flood on Indian Creek in June 2002, which damaged the Sun Valley Neighborhood just above the bridge at East Post Road, prompted neighbors to question whether the design of the existing bridge’s substructure helped to back water up in the creek. The flow of water under the bridge – the creek is high now — is one of the design considerations of the proposed new structure.

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  1. Let me get this straight, Our City is going to spend more tax dollars to have a consultant review what another consultant has already studied! Our City Council continues to waste limited tax dollars with all these consultants!!!!!!!!!

  2. Check out http://www.eastpostbridge.com to view the public questions/answers from the October 2006 meeting, as well as see the drawing plans and the slide shows presented at all the public meetings.

    I sure hope that the Council can filter the emotion out and make a good decision for the community. I trust that they will.

  3. Why does the city of Cedar Rapids need to hire so many engineering consultants? Maybe the credentials of the city engineers should be reviewed to see what is preventing them from performing engineering duties! The consultants gather most of their information from the city engineering and other departments, does this make sence??

  4. What the heck do we have a City Manager and
    City Council for?It’s a constant thing of hiring Cnsultants to study this or that and we are getting them from out of state.How many of these same Consultants has Prosser used in the past.I’m not stating this as fact but just wonder who is lining who’s pockets.If our City Manager and Council can’t stop spending so much money foolishly,then maybe it’s time to replace them.This new form of government can work if we get the right people in City Hall.

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