Burlington will not accept state funding to replace Cascade Bridge, which has been closed to vehicle traffic for years.
The city council declined the $1.5 million grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation because the city does not have the remaining $5 million to $6 million needed to build a new bridge.
Public Works Director Nick McGregor told aldermen that Cascade Bridge will remain on the state’s radar, so their decision to turn down the money will not jeopardize future funding.
“[The DOT] bases it off the condition of the bridge,” said McGregor. “That bridge is not getting any better, so it will likely not lose any points as far as the rest of the rankings go.”
This is not the first time Burlington has turned down state money to repair the bridge.
City Manager Jim Ferneau said the city accepted the same grant several years ago, but then returned it because the city was not in a position to cover its share of construction at that time either.
He said if the city tried to replace the bridge now, it would have to halt any residential street repairs for at least the next four years. The city sets aside about $1.5 million annually for asphalt repairs.
Ferneau said the city’s debt load will start to clear up in about 2024, so the city council could look at replacing Cascade Bridge at that time.
Aldermen agreed to decline the money, but did express some concerns about how much the cost would be 5-6 years down the road. In 2009, the city told Tri States Public Radio the estimated cost to replace the bridge was about $4 million, nearly half the cost of the current estimate.
Cascade Bridge provides access to Crapo Park and the city’s downtown district. It’s more than 120-years old.