In the April 19, 1979, edition of the Waverly Democrat, the minutes of the March 19 Waverly City Council meeting were printed at the bottom of Page 9 of the 16-page paper.
In those minutes, there was a reference to the Third Street Southeast bridge and the council’s authorization to then-City Administrator Michael Schneider to apply for funding with the Iowa Department of Transportation for the Green Bridge’s replacement on a 5-0 vote with two council members absent.
More than 41 years later, the bridge’s saga continues, but the opportunity to receive state funding for a proposed replacement appears to have ceased.
On Monday, the 2020 version of the council voted down, 4-3, the option for Waverly to receive the million-dollar DOT grant tied to the construction of a two-lane bridge at the site of the current Green Bridge.
This is not the first time the council or the community have opposed such a span at that location.
However, what makes Monday’s vote significant, according to current Mayor Adam Hoffman, is that for the first time, the city had included the two-lane option in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, prompting the DOT to extend the city a contract.
Had the council endorsed it, the contract would have give the city $1 million from the state to go toward what would eventually be a $7.3 million project, when accounting for improvements to the street from East Bremer Avenue to the north end of the bridge.
Voting against the measure on Monday were Ward 2 Councilman Kris Glaser, Ward 4 Councilwoman Heather Beaufore, Ward 5 Councilman Tim Kangas and At-Large Councilman Matthew Schneider. The yes votes were cast by Ward 1 Councilman Brian Birgen, Ward 3 Councilman Rod Dreknow and At-Large Councilwoman Ann Rathe.
Public Works Director and City Engineer Mike Cherry told the council that the timing for the plans for replacement is due to the DOT planning to replace the Bremer Avenue Bridge around 2024 and 2025. With the Third Street Bridge closed since February 2015, that would force traffic to the Cedar River Parkway and Adams Parkway bridges to cross the Cedar River.
However, the council members voting against the grant cited numerous concerns. Glaser couldn’t justify the total cost.
“Even after the $1 million, we are still responsible for $3.5 million all told if we are going to do this,” Glaser said. “Then, we may have to redo the street, if it continues to be a collector street, and that would cost $3.1 million. That’s a total of $6.6 million.
“A lot of people would rather have a pedestrian bridge, which is only $2 million, or do nothing and remove the bridge, which only costs $200,000. I can’t support the two-lane bridge.”
Beaufore was concerned about the increased the traffic she believed the two-lane bridge would attract if built.
“If we’re going with a smaller bridge, we’re going to deter that traffic,” she said. “It’s going to save some of the street around that bridge.”
However, both Drenkow and Birgen said without a bridge at Third Street when the Bremer Avenue span is closed, the downtown merchants may be in another lurch.
“There would only be two ways to get across the river… That’s not ideal,” Drenkow said. “In light of the hit the merchants have taken due to the virus and the recent reconstruction of Bremer Avenue, we’ll have two more construction seasons of this. That causes concern for me.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re put into this box because of the scheduling by the DOT. If we have a few years longer to see how things are going, stretch out our projects, I’d be more comfortable. I’m not going to leave the businesses hanging without multiple ways to get downtown.”
Birgen added that the Green Bridge has been an enigma for past City Councils for the last 15-20 years.
“I don’t think we can leave this unanswered for another 3-5 years,” Birgen said. “The downtown merchants have had a tough time with construction, and the virus quarantine is not doing them any favors. Helping them out would be appreciated, and bridge access will help them.”
Kangas mentioned that his preference was for the pedestrian bridge, which was approved by a 4-3 vote in 2017 before then-Mayor Chuck Infelt vetoed it to allow the next council to give a more definitive decision. The issue was never taken up during former mayor Dean Soash’s two-year tenure.
Monday’s vote was the third time the bridge was taken up over the last five years. The first was in the spring of 2016, which ended a discussion that began in the fall of 2015 to repair the bridge. It failed on a similar 4-3 no vote.