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$2.15 million Mehaffey Trail bid awarded

Through traffic to be maintained

IOWA CITY– It’s been a while coming, but a two-mile, separated trail linking North Liberty to Mehaffey Bridge is finally on its way.
At a Nov. 2 meeting, the members of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved a $2,150,912.55 bid from Peterson Contractors Inc. A public meeting on the project will be forthcoming.
The 10-foot concrete trail will link the intersection of Cedar Springs Drive and Mehaffey Bridge Road (North Liberty city limits) with the walking/biking lane on Mehaffey Bridge, and includes an underpass near the boat ramp.
“The Mehaffey Bridge Trail has been long anticipated,” supervisor chair Janelle Rettig said. “The vast majority of this trail project is being paid for with grant funds, so it was worth waiting a bit.”
According to the five-year road plan adopted in April, $1.257 million in federal enhancement funds will cover a little more than half the construction costs, with the remainder coming from the county conservation bond ($500,000) and other county trail funds ($893,000). Engineer’s estimates initially placed the cost at $2.65 million.
Construction should begin before the middle of May and, pending weather, could be complete by the end of October 2018, estimated Neil Shatek, assistant county engineer with the Johnson County Secondary Roads Department.
Shatek said the contractor will host a public meeting and share plans for construction and scheduling prior to commencing work.
The trail will follow the northern side of Mehaffey Bridge Road in the county’s right-of-way until it reaches the boat ramp, Shatek said. There it will cut diagonally under the roadway through a culvert to the south side.
“It’ll end up connecting with the trail that’s on the bridge,” Shatek explained.
The current entrance to the boat ramp will be relocated further west to avoid traffic from the trail.
The project also includes a small parking lot on the north side of Mehaffey Bridge Road, accessed by both the trail and the road.
Traffic will be maintained throughout construction, he said, but residents can expect to see orange cones and truck traffic.
“We’re going to have to cut the road open to install that culvert,” Shatek said. “So during that time, we’re going to have a temporary little drive-around that’ll go kind of to the north of the road.”
The project will include a lot of fill dirt and retaining walls, and there will be instances where crews will be working close to the road, prompting a small shift in the lanes, he noted.
Motorists should expect to use extra caution.
The project originally appeared on the county’s 2009 five-year plan, scheduled for fiscal year 2011 at an estimated cost of $750,000. At that time it was projected as a 2.5 mile segment stretching to Sugar Bottom Road.
But once some initial funding allowed design to proceed, the price of the project increased, and additional federal funding was needed, Shatek said.
That delay, and working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, coupled to keep the project on the shelf.
“It seemed like the permitting ended up taking kind of longer than anticipated,” Shatek said.
The project is expected to improve safety on a road which sees approximately 2,900 vehicles per day, according to 2014 Iowa Department of Transportation counts.
It also extends Johnson County’s network of separated trails, allowing users to travel from the bridge into Iowa City via connections with North Liberty, Coralville and Iowa City via the Iowa River Corridor Trail.
The county added four-foot paved shoulders to Mehaffey Bridge Road from North Liberty to Solon in two separate phases, and added a 12-foot wide walking/biking path as part of the new bridge, completed in 2015.