Johnson County Bridge Over Coralville Lake to be Replaced

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

A pontoon boat makes it's way past another boat on the Coralville Lake near Mehaffey Bridge Road Monday, May 21, 2012 near North Liberty. Law Enforcement personal will be out in force next weekend in an attempt to ensure boater safety on the lake during the busy Memorial Day weekend. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Ellen Kurt

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Johnson County will replace a key bridge over Coralville Lake, but the county supervisors are not pleased with the $8.9 million price tag.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 Thursday to approve a contract with Iowa Bridge & Culvert in Washington, Iowa, to replace Mehaffey Bridge.

The 562-foot-long bridge crosses Coralville Lake between North Liberty and Solon. It’s been on the county’s to-do list for nearly a decade and is classified as structurally deficient by the federal government. That does not mean it is unsafe but rather is in need of significant repairs or replacement.

Mehaffey Bridge, which is nearly 60 years old, has a weight limit and its deck surface is coming apart, County Engineer Greg Parker said.

Supervisor Pat Harney said the county spent five years trying to get the federal government to contribute to the cost, but to no avail. Coralville Lake is a federally run reservoir.

Bids for the project first went out a year ago but came back in the $9.5 million range, about $4 million more than the estimate, Parker said. After making some modifications, the project was re-bid with an estimate $9 million.

Supervisors were not happy to be spending $8.9 million on a bridge. Board Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said it’s an example of why local officials are calling for an increase in fuel taxes, which help fund road and bridge maintenance.

“Our infrastructure is just deteriorating,” she said.

Mehaffey bridge sees an average of 3,410 vehicles a day, according to the most recent count from the Iowa Department of Transportation in 2010.

Parker said a timeline for the project still needs to be hammered out, but work is expected to start this spring and take two years.

Traffic will remain open on the bridge during construction. The new bridge will include an attached trail, and that will be built first and then opened to one-way traffic, Parker said. Then work will start on the new traffic deck.

The new bridge will have the same alignment as the current one, Parker said.

A meeting will be scheduled at some point so the public can ask questions about the project, he said.

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