WAVERLY — Despite the vocal protestations of the audience, the new bridge that will connect Third Street Southeast again will be for pedestrians only.
The Waverly City Council voted 4-3, with Ward 5 council member Tim Kangas joining Ward 1 member Dan Lampe, At-large member David Reznicek and Ward 3 member Wes Gade in voting for a pedestrian-only bridge at that crossing.
Those four officially voted for Option C, to develop and let out bids for a 12-foot wide, pre-engineered weathering steel parallel chord truss bridge at an estimated cost of $1,370,000. It was one of 18 pedestrian-only options prepared by WHKS and Co.
The bridge will replace the historic “green bridge,” which has been unable to be used for years due to deterioration. That bridge allowed for one lane of traffic.
The vote was heated even before Monday’s meeting began, with multiple calls and emails between Waverly residents and council members, and even between council and city staff, in emails shared with The Courier.
“We came to this discussion rejecting the repair option,” Mayor Charles Infelt said at the beginning of the discussion, allowing public input limited to three minutes per person. “I know we’ve all weighed in millions of times, but council needs to hear from you regarding these figures only.”
Mary Schildroth previously spearheaded a group advocating for repair and, when that didn’t pass, a pedestrian-only crossing. She read one letter of support before her time limit was up and was loudly heckled by the crowd when she attempted to read another, passing two more letters to another supporter to read.
Brian Birgen, who is currently running for Lampe’s Ward 1 spot, noted he also was in favor of pedestrian-only.
“I don’t think a two-lane bridge where the green bridge is now is a great idea,” he said. “I would like to see a pedestrian bridge. ... That’s my neighborhood.”
They were followed by several speakers in favor of a one- or two-lane vehicular bridge.
Paula Stevenson, who advocates for downtown Waverly businesses, said she and volunteers gave surveys to dozens of people asking which option of bridge they preferred. Fifty-nine people on the southeast side of the river wanted a vehicle crossing, while two preferred pedestrian, she said. On the southwest side, 32 preferred vehicular to one pedestrian.
“It’s pretty overwhelming what we do want,” she said.
Other speakers said their reasoning was because of the money being spent for a pedestrian-only bridge or the inconvenience residents would continue to experience driving around. Nancy Conklin, a real estate agent in Waverly, said it could affect the city’s growth.
“Buyers are going against living in that neighborhood because it is very inconvenient to get across,” she said.
Ward 2 council member Dan McKenzie echoed the driving convenience argument.
“Those 3,000 cars didn’t just disappear — they went into my neighborhood. So I struggle with that,” he said.
Ward 4 council member Mike Sherer said he preferred to wait on any vote until the Cedar River Parkway was completed to assess how traffic patterns changed. At-large council member Edith Waldstein noted a vehicular bridge would likely garner $1 million in funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation, while a pedestrian-only would garner none.
But Lampe, who represents the green bridge ward, said he preferred the pedestrian option, arguing a two-lane bridge would be inappropriate.
“When (drivers) whipped across the bridge before, it was a one-lane. This would be a two-lane,” he said, adding he drives around it often and “we’ve learned to get along without it.”
Reznicek said he didn’t believe another vehicular bridge would be “good city planning” and said the inconvenience amounted to just minutes for drivers.
“The pedestrian bridge solves the problem of kids going to school, helps biking and park access that our city is trying to develop,” he said.
Kangas echoed those comments.
“I’ve heard talk about connectivity,” added Kangas, “but to me, this is a bridge to nowhere.”