Riverside Drive pedestrian tunnel in the works to improve safety

The plans for a tunnel on Riverside Drive have been announced as an effort to improve pedestrian safety. The project is intended to connect a portion of Riverside Drive to pre-existing sidewalks on Myrtle Avenue.


Ryan Adams

The area of the proposed pedestrian tunnel is located near Riverside Drive and Myrtle Avenue is seen on September 11, 2019.

Lauren White, News Reporter

Iowa City Public Works has announced plans to reconstruct a portion of Riverside Drive to further protect  pedestrians with the addition of a new tunnel.

The tunnel will connect the west side of South Riverside Drive to the pre-existing sidewalks on Myrtle Avenue on the south side of the railroad.

Assistant city engineer Scott Sovers said the intent of the project is to connect Riverside Drive to Myrtle Avenue to avoid making pedestrians cross the railroad tracks. The portion of South Riverside Drive in question currently poses the danger of pedestrians walking between the street and the railroad embankment, Sovers said. 

He added that additional safety concerns stem from high vehicle speeds and traffic volumes. The area surrounding South Riverside Drive is near a recently built housing development, the railroad, and a span of University of Iowa property. 

Sovers said he believes this addition will greatly benefit UI students because it will provide an important attachment to sidewalks used to access the UI campus.

“We feel that this project provides key sidewalk connections that improve the walkability of the area, and we are excited to get this project underway,” Sovers said. 

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The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported early this Month that the project is estimated to cost just under $1 million. 

City engineer Jason Havel said the project was added to the city’s five-year Capital Improvements Plan, which includes funding for public-improvement projects. Once the funding was in place, the team of engineers began on the design of the project, which is nearing completion. 

The addition is projected to begin either this winter or early spring. However, Sovers said the start date depends on how property acquisitions pan out and should be finished late in the summer of 2020.

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The team is also working to obtain any property and easements they will need to construct the project, Havel said. He added that he remains confident in the project’s ability to improve the safety of the area.

“Once completed, this project will fill a significant gap in our current transportation system and greatly improve the long-term connectivity and accessibility of the area,” Havel said.

City manager Geoff Fruin said in an email to The Daily Iowan the project is a critical improvement to the public. 

“Through [the tunnel] and other projects, we are creating a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly area that will help ensure [that] those living west of Riverside Drive have multiple safe travel alternatives to the downtown and main University of Iowa campus,” Fruin said.

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