WATERLOO — The iconic but sometimes derided covered pedestrian walkway on the Fourth Street Bridge is shining again.
After some false starts and a debate over funding, the summer-long renovation of the walkway and its canopy is complete. Pedestrians were using it for the first time in months this week. The bridge also was closed to vehicle traffic most of the summer, reopening in September.
The canopy has been completely renovated, windows replaced and new energy-efficient lighting added. Structural repairs also were made to the concrete. The brighter lights now cast a striking view at night.
“We’re very pleased overall with the project,” City Engineer Eric Thorson said. Some finishing touches remain, but the barricades at either end of the pedestrian bridge have been removed.
“It’s really close. We’re going to try to a ribbon cutting sometime next week,” he said.
Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart said, “I’ve received a lot of great calls and comments from people on how good it looks. It brings our entire downtown together.”
The project took about a month longer than anticipated. The canopy windows had to be special ordered through a local vendor. The final look was recommended by the Main Street Waterloo design review committee.
The walkway and bridge were built around 1974, Thorson said, part of a downtown revitalization plan that included construction of the convention center.
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The walkway’s deteriorated conditions had been a point of criticism over the years, along with vandalism. That has changed.
“There’s so much more activity downtown,” Thorson said “Downtown has really come back.”
Members of the Youth Art Team, about 30 students from 16 Waterloo-Cedar Falls schools, decorated support beams on one of the canopy’s “bump out” expansions. City staff will have a regular maintenance schedule for the walkway.
The Waterloo City Council in April approved a $1.49 million contract with Minturn Inc. of Brooklyn, Iowa, including an estimated $93,000 to replace the faded windows in the steel canopy. The project was funded in part by a $750,000 grant from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association.
The bridge originally included side panels to shelter pedestrians from wind, but they were removed due to vandalism. Panels could be re-installed in the future if deemed necessary, Thorson said.
While some people may have questioned renovating and restoring the walkway, given periodic vandalism, Hart said, “We cannot allow those random acts to slow up progress in our community.”
Waterloo Police Chief Dan Trelka said, “Lighting is always a great deterrent to nefarious activity, and we appreciate the incorporation of adequate lighting in this venture.
He said police will monitor the bridge regularly.