Bellevue city leaders should pursue federal funding to build a new bridge to replace the current Bellevue Bridge, according to a study presented Feb. 4 during a joint session of the Bellevue City Council and the Bellevue Bridge Commission.
Building a new bridge and then either demolishing the current one or repurposing it for recreational use would provide the most benefits to the community, according to the study, which was conducted by Felsburg Holt & Ullevig.
The bridge’s driving surface has an estimate 20 to 25 years left of life, and Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig’s Mark Meisinger laid out the study’s three main options for what to do with the nearly 2,000-foot, two-lane bridge over the Missouri River that connects Olde Towne Bellevue with Mills County, Iowa.
All plans assume a full implementation date of 2040.
Greg Youell, the executive director of the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, said the study was a way to start conversations between state, local and federal entities so they can develop plans now.
The first option is to demolish the bridge when it reaches the end of its life around 2040. That would cost an estimated $17 million to maintain the driving surface during that time plus $8.6 million to demolish.
The second option is to convert the bridge, which was constructed in 1952 and sees about 2,100 vehicles cross per day, according to 2018 figures, to a bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge, which had the lowest estimated cost at $6.7 million plus the $17 million for maintenance. The bridge could serve as a potential connection between the Keystone Trail in Sarpy County and the Lewis & Clark and Wabash Trace trails in Iowa.
Building a new bridge, the third option, would allow the city to either demolish the current bridge or convert it for recreation. If the current bridge were demolished the new one would include an 8-foot shoulder for bicyclists and pedestrians.
A new bridge would cost an estimated $62 million plus demolition, conversion and maintenance costs and likely require federal funding and local entities to cover 20% of the total.
Funds could also come from an increase in the price of tolls on the bridge, a tax levy and bonding.
Don Fenster, a member of the Bellevue Bridge Commission, said the commission is opposed to toll increases because it could reduce traffic and negate any increase in revenue.
Traffic on the bridge was cut by more than half once the bridge over the Missouri River on Highway 34 opened in 2014, but the bridge saw an increase in traffic in 2019 due to bridges further south being closed for extended periods of time due to historic flooding.