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CITY ICON: Grand Ave. Bridge Options Considered

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A Des Moines icon is nearing its end.

Grand Avenue's historic, arched bridge over the Des Moines River will be replaced within two years. City leaders are now trying to determine what the new bridge will look like.

Some cities are defined by bridges. The question is, is Des Moines one of them?

“When you walk along the new Riverwalk, well you see them!” said Ken Quinn of Des Moines.

They splash across more than just the Des Moines River.

“It’s been on the logo for Des Moines, the three bridges,” said downtown resident, Paula Feltner.

Ironically, it the youngest of them, the Grand Avenue bridge, that needs the most attention.  Heavy traffic over 96 years have taken a toll and city engineers say the time is now for a complete replacement.

During a meeting Monday night, they asked for public feedback on four potential plans; a $6 million barebones design, more aesthetic plans ranging from seven to nine million, and a pie-in-the-sky proposal which replicates the true handmade arches of the original bridge.

“I’m assuming that would be a little out of our reach,” laughed Feltner. Likely more than $40 million. Public opinion is, so far, more conservative than that.

“I don’t think a bare-bones bridge would fit in the space," said Downtown Neighborhood Association president, Jon Thompson, "but I couldn’t see the city justifying $32 million, either.”

Over $6 million is already budgeted and set aside for the project which would begin in 2016. State federal grants could cover an upgrade to a more extravagant design.

“They’re a wonderful historic part of the city," Quinn said, "and if it’s possible to keep some of that appearance with the budget limitations, that would be wonderful.”

The city council will select the bridge design at its next meeting on Monday.

When the Grand Avenue Bridge is complete, the city will likely move on to replacements for the bridges at Locust and Walnut streets.