New bridge opens

Rachael Keating/Clinton HeraldThe new $80.6 million Savanna-Sabula Bridge, shown here in July, opened to traffic Friday night.

SAVANNA, Ill. — The Illinois and Iowa departments of transportation were joined by local officials and community leaders Friday to celebrate the completion of the new U.S. 52-Illinois 64 bridge over the Mississippi River. The $80.6 million bridge, which connects the communities of Savanna, Ill., and Sabula, opened to traffic Friday night.

“The new Savanna-Sabula bridge greatly improves safety, better connects our communities and strengthens commerce in an important part of our state,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “The new design is modern and eye-catching, but the biggest benefits will be enhanced quality of life and more economic opportunity for a vital gateway into Illinois.”

The previous bridge, which opened in 1932 as a private toll bridge, will be dismantled and removed in the spring. At just 20 feet across with no room for shoulders, the old bridge was a safety concern because it was too narrow to accommodate bicycles or disabled vehicles, with wider vehicles often overlapping the opposite lane.

Construction began in 2015 on the new bridge. The structure is more than 2,400 feet long, stretching from the middle of the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife & Fish Refuge on the Iowa side to the high bluffs of the Mississippi Palisades State Park in Illinois. It is 40 feet across, with two wider lanes and shoulders. The focal point of the new bridge will be the main span, a steel tied-arch over the river.

While the Illinois Department of Transportation served as the lead agency on the project, Iowa and Illinois share jurisdiction of the bridge. Both states worked closely with the cities of Savanna and Sabula to coordinate the new bridge alignment and construction activities, minimizing the work of the project while maximizing the potential for economic growth.

The Savanna-Sabula bridge is a key link for interstate commerce in the Midwest. The next closest bridge across the Mississippi River is Illinois 136, 20 miles to the south in Fulton.

“This bridge will bring new economic opportunities to both of our communities. I hope to see an increase in commercial traffic as well as tourism,” said Savanna Mayor Chris Lain. “This project has been a nice boost to our local economy, with all the workers staying in and enjoying our beautiful town.”