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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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