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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 2, 2009

UI reopens historic IMU footbridge

This morning the University of Iowa officially reopened the 85-year-old Iowa Memorial Union footbridge, the riverfront sidewalks and River Park, which have been closed since the June 2008 flood. [A ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for this morning was canceled because of the weather forecast.]

The reopening actually marks the completion of three interconnected projects: railing repairs, rewiring, complete replacement of the footbridge's steel deck and installation of a protective membrane to protect the deck against corrosion; installation of a new, high-pressure steam line that will provide the east and west campuses with backup heating and cooling in case of future flooding; and replacement of the damaged sidewalks that run along the Iowa River.

In spring 2010, the UI will install new, energy-efficient light fixtures on the footbridge that match the existing lighting and preserve the structure's historic architecture.

"Although there are other UI facilities that have been more prominent in public discussions about our campus renewal, one of the most commonly asked questions in the past year has been, 'When is the IMU footbridge reopening?'" UI President Sally Mason said. "We are delighted that this important pedestrian walkway is returning to our campus life, connecting the east and west sides and connecting the university community back to the Iowa River."

Don Guckert, associate vice president and director of Facilities Management, said the UI used the opportunity of the footbridge repairs to make other improvements that will help protect the campus in the event of future flooding.

"In addition to providing a critical connection to both sides of the river, this bridge provides an additional measure of protection against the type of risks we experienced with last year's flood," Guckert said. "The first phase of this bridge reconstruction included the installation of a larger steam line connection. This vital link provides redundancies to the steam line crossings at the Burlington Bridge and Dam. Our goal is to never again lose the steam service that is essential to our academic, research, housing, and other vital operations, especially the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

"As stewards of the landscaped environment, Facilities Management is pleased to return to service one of our more prized campus physical features and the pathways that traverse the campus on both sides of this river," Guckert added.

While the walkways are open, Guckert said work continues to restore bank erosion and rebuild the sidewalk system to further mitigate against flooding.

Design of the footbridge is credited to George Horner, a former university architect and planner who was instrumental in the creation of the arts campus. The last time the bridge's deck was replaced was 1980.

David Grady, associate vice president and director of University Life Centers, said the reopening of the footbridge is important for both practical -- and symbolic -- reasons. He relayed the story of a UI alumnus who once told Grady that after a dance at the IMU he and his girlfriend went for stroll across the bridge. When they reached the other side, the man proposed.

"When we talked, he told me they had been married almost 50 years," Grady said. "To him the IMU footbridge is a bridge to love and lifelong companionship. To students who use the bridge to travel from their residences and from class to class, the bridge is a bridge to learning and engagement. For faculty and staff who use the bridge to get to their office, get to classrooms, go meet with colleagues, it is a bridge to discovery, teaching and collaboration. And for the university, the IMU footbridge is a bridge to hope, recovery and the future -- a symbol of a renewed, revitalized campus."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,