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A bridge reconstruction on an historic rail embankment puts cyclists on track for a memorable experience.
A bridge reconstruction on an historic rail embankment puts cyclists on track for a memorable experience.
182 backers pledged $50,325 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

River Action brings an iconic bridge back from the past. project video thumbnail
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$50,325

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The First Bridge to cross the Mississippi River has over a 150-year connection to the community, and the nation. Abraham Lincoln was the president who connected the East with the West. Two weeks after the first train crossed the river, the steamboat Effie Afton struck a bridge pier and caught fire. A young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, represented the railroad in the court case to follow, raising him to national prominence. The tale of the Effie Afton, Abraham Lincoln and the railroads has been told time and time again. 

(Map from Flagler, 1877)
(Map from Flagler, 1877)

The historic ties to Abraham Lincoln and his famous lawsuit, which many consider his most famous case, will bring tourists to the Quad Cities and have a positive economic impact on the community

The First Bridge, 1856-1866
The First Bridge, 1856-1866

On the corner of River Drive and Federal Street in Davenport, IA lies the original embankment for the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River. One rail still stretches out toward the bridge's other end along the shore of Rock Island.  

Bridge proposal
Bridge proposal

Using historical specifications, River Action proposes to reconstruct one complete span, identical to the original first rail road bridge across the Mississippi River to create safe passage and connectivity linking new development to riverfront trails. The first railroad bridge embankment, built in 1856 linking Rock Island, IL to Davenport, IA, still exists and will provide the northern base for a new bicycle-pedestrian trail bridge crossing River Drive (US 67) in Davenport. 

Local interests -

The bridge will connect the newly-built River Heritage Park, Mississippi River Trail, and American Discovery Trail, with a developing neighborhood in downtown Davenport and a new YMCA. The First Bridge elevation, 30 feet, will showcase views of significant historic sites on the river. It will also provide a much needed safe link over a heavily used, fast moving four lane highway and BNSF railroad, between downtown Davenport, newly restored loft housing, the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a 3,000 mile north-south route of on-road bikeways and multi-use trails.

Night view
Night view

National Interests- 

It is no secret that the Mississippi River is an American icon known throughout the world. Tourism is just one way our community is impacted. The visitor who appreciates heritage is going to appreciate a more authentic experience. According to the National Parks Service, whose Save America's Treasures program helps preserve the irreplaceable historical character of places such as this railroad embankment, "Historic preservation has proven economic, environmental and social benefits. Studies show that historic districts maintain higher property values, less population decline, more walkability, and greater sense of community." Utilizing this historic remnant to reconstruct the significant first bridge would celebrate our unique cultural heritage.

This project will have four likely benefits for the Quad Cities community. 

  • First, an obvious benefit, the bridge will be a much safer crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists. River Drive is a major, four lane traffic corridor through the Iowa Quad Cities. Currently, there are no pedestrian/bicycle bridges crossing River Drive and railroad tracks. Bicyclists must cross the road to access the riverfront trail, and the only current way of doing so is at busy intersections.  
  • Second, the new bridge will likely increase ridership by eliminating the need for that crossing - which can be dangerous at times. Ridership (particularly commuting) will increase as the bridge connects several downtown loft housing projects with the paved trail system. 
  • Third, the bridge project could also have a significant economic impact in the adjacent neighborhoods by providing a recreational and commuting option for residents and by increasing connectivity to a neighborhood where 500 new housing units, a new Children's Learning Center, and a family YMCA are planned for 2015-16.
Proposed vision of the site plan for First Bridge
Proposed vision of the site plan for First Bridge
  •  Finally, the reconstruction of the First Bridge will attract visitors interested in historic and cultural tourism who spend more money, stay longer, and are an important part of the local economy. The building of the First Bridge across the Mississippi River opened up to West to the transcontinental railroad, making it the first gateway to the West.  

We are asking the Kickstarter community for funds to help bring this part of history to life!

Watch more about our project

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCGVb2VLe3E

Our Budget

Why $50,000? The bridge construction estimate is $3M. 80% will be from federal and state grants. 20% will be private funding. 

One way we are meeting that portion is to open it up to the Kickstarter community. We know this is more than a local project. The story of the First Bridge appeals to railroad, steamboat and bridge lovers, history buffs who are interested in the Mississippi River, pre and post Civil War era, and Abraham Lincoln, and those who support innovative modern urban trail development.

If you help us bring this reconstruction to life, the funds raised will go directly toward building the bridge. Our goal for fundraising will allow us to start building later in 2015 with project completion by September 2016. 

Budgets have yet to be finalized but already the property has been secured and cleared, and planning started with key groups. Much of the work, including engineering design, is being provided pro bono. Grants will be sought from historic preservation groups, Iowa and Federal DOT, local foundations and other sources that support historic reconstruction and trail development. 

Our team

Kathy Wine, Executive Director

Eileen Sipes, Executive Assistant

Tim Gillman, Program Director

Tim Chambers, Program Director

Jessica Flondro, Program Director

Julie Wine Johnston, Video Script writer  

Denise Hollmer, Video Production Specialist

Many thanks to those who have have been part of our project -

Bill Ashton, Engineer Adviser - Ashton Engineering

Chris Townsend - Townsend Engineering

RDG Planning & Design

Crapnell Survey

Bob McGivern, Koestner, McGivern & Associates

Ranger Tree Service

Estes Construction, Construction Estimates

John Bald, Print Maker

Ted McElhiney, Artist, Sculpture and Painter

David Losasso, Mississippi Fine Arts and John Bloom Gallery

Abraham Lincoln as portrayed by Fritz Klein

Risks and challenges

The biggest challenge to completing our project is receiving all of the funding needed. River Action has successfully raised funds for other bridge projects, so we have knowledge of what to expect. We will overcome funding deficiencies by taking other avenues for funding.

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Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

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    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and a postcard featuring an historic image of the First Railroad Bridge Across the Mississippi River!

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    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and a poster recreation of a vintage image of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River!

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    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and a t-shirt featuring an image of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and a t-shirt featuring an image of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River, a poster recreation of a vintage image of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River, and a reprint of an article written by William Riebe of Davenport, IA featured in "The Rock Island Digest". This article is a 12 page document detailing bridge history beginning with the first bridge. The article includes professionally drawn maps and drawings.

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    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and a t-shirt featuring an image of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River, a poster recreation of a vintage image of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River, and a DVD featuring a short video of Abraham Lincoln learning about our project while visiting the River Action office in Davenport, IA.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and two books about the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River including a signed copy of "Hell Gate of the Mississippi, The Effie Afton Trial and Abraham Lincoln's Role In It" by Larry A Riney, and "Lincoln's Greatest Case, The River, The Bridge, and The Making of America" by Brian McGinte.

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    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, and a framed print featuring an artist rendition of the First Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River.

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    Name on our website as a supporter of this project, plus a catered VIP party on the newly constructed bridge with 25 of your friends! (Travel expenses to Davenport, IA will be the responsibility of the bidder.)

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    All of the above rewards: postcard, poster, t-shirt, DVD, books, framed print, plus a vintage commemorative plate and one VIP party with 25 of your friends (travel expenses to Davenport, IA will be the responsibility of the bidder.) VIP party to take place at completion of the project. Other rewards will be sent earlier.

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Funding period

- (30 days)