It this becomes reality, it will really be something to see.

It's been nearly a year since Quad Cities native Chad Pregracke revealed the idea of using what's currently the I-80 bridge over the Mississippi River as a crossing for both wildlife and pedestrians.

The Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge, named in honor of a former U.S. Representative from Davenport, connects LeClaire, Iowa and Rapids City, Illinois. The steel girder bridge opened in the fall of 1966 and, in addition to its age, has another major issue: it's only four lanes. It simply not enough for the 40,000 vehicles that cross it every day.

According to WQAD, the Illinois Department of Transportation approved the first engineering study for a new bridge last December. It will help determine if the current bridge should be demolished and replaced with a new one in the same spot or if a new one should be built elsewhere. Members of the Bison Bridge project hope the ultimate decision is the latter.

Below are pictures of the existing I-80 Bridge
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On Tuesday, the Illinois House Transportation Committee unanimously approved a plan to include the Bison Bridge in plans for a new bridge. As you can imagine, Pregracke was very excited by the vote. He told WQAD,

While this is just a single step in a long process, it is significant and represents continuous progress towards our goal. Momentum is most certainly building for this project, and we can’t thank our network of supporters, stakeholders and of course our community leaders for lending assistance to our efforts.

The resolution now goes to the Illinois House of Representatives. Support of the statehouse seems essential as the final decision on whether the existing bridge will be demolished or transformed lies with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Iowa Department of Transportation, and Federal Highways Administration.

Those behind the Bison Bridge want to convert the I-80 bridge into a pedestrian walkway on one side and a wildlife crossing on the other. The idea has garnered national attention:

If it becomes reality, the Bison Bridge would be the largest manmade wildlife crossing in the world. The I-80 bridge is 3,483 feet, making it nearly two-thirds of a mile long. Estimated to cost around $20 million, plans are for all of the money to be privately funded. In addition to the bridge's transformaton, the long-term goal is to also have adjacent national parks on both sides of the Mississippi River.

The video below details the plan which, even if it does become reality, is still years away. You can find more on the Bison Bridge here.

Bison Bridge Pitch Final from Studio 291 on Vimeo.

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