Bridging the Gap?

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Lance Wamsley (standing) and Keegan Morley of the Badger-Hawkeye Bridge Coalition give a presentation in the Cassville Elementary School gymnasium Wednesday night. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

There was a good crowd to listen to ideas and also give ideas about a bridge across the Mississippi River between Cassville and Guttenberg.

 

Turnout good at meeting for proposed Cassville-Guttenberg bridge

By Ted Pennekamp

 

People filled a good portion of the bleachers in one half the Cassville Elementary School gymnasium on Wednesday night for an informational meeting about the proposed Cassville-Guttenberg bridge.

The Badger-Hawkeye Bridge Coalition and the Cassville Economic Development organization hosted the meeting and gave a slide presentation and talk about why a bridge between Cassville and Guttenberg is important and would greatly help the economy of regions on both sides of the Mississippi River.

“A bridge would increase the economic growth and development of both communities and their surrounding areas,” said Lance Wamsley, co-founder of the coalition and a Cassville native.

Wamsley said he is optimistic that such a bridge could happen, but he also is realistic and said it will take a lot of hard work and “noise” by people on both sides of the river for many years, and perhaps decades, to get such a project done.

“This idea has been talked about for decades, since 1935,” said Wamsley. “We need to rally and persevere.”

Communities along the river without bridges are challenged, said Wamsley, in noting that Cassville’s economy has suffered since the closing of two power plants in late 2015 that consisted of about 10 percent of the community’s workforce.

“Cassville was a vibrant community in the 1970s,” he said. “We need jobs, and we need a bridge for both communities in order to do that.”

Support is growing for such a bridge, and Wamsley said there will be more meetings in the future. He said an online petition by the coalition for a bridge has generated more than 2,100 signatures and will be presented to both states as well as federal legislators.

“We have a Facebook page and we’re spreading the message,” said Wamsley. “It’s gonna take a lot of us to yell really loud to get this going. We shouldn’t just sit back and let Madison and Milwaukee get everything.”

Wamsley conceded that neither state’s Departments of Transportation are interested in the proposed bridge and he urged those in attendance to please continue to contact their state and federal legislators via phone, emails, letters, and any other means.

“We need some help from state and federal government,” said Wamsley, who noted that United States Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin recently told him he is on board for a Cassville-Guttenberg bridge. Wamsley said Kind will contact United States Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa about the benefits of such a project.

“Getting Iowa on board will be a big challenge,” said Wamsley.

Wamsley said, however, that there is an ethanol plant in Dyersville which is about 40 miles from the proposed bridge site and an ethanol plant would match up well with the farming of Grant County in Wisconsin. U.S. Highway 20 in Iowa would also be a big factor in regional economic growth, said Wamsley regarding a four-lane bridge that would greatly increase vehicle traffic to the region.

Wamsley said a Wisconsin DOT study in 1968 recommended that there should be a bridge at Cassville.

Wamsley pointed out that Crawford County, Wisconsin is a mostly rural county, and yet there are two bridges (Lansing and Prairie du Chien) that connect a county of 16,000 to Iowa. In contrast, Grant County has a population of more than 50,000 and yet only has one bridge at the far southern tip. In addition, Wamsley said a bridge between Cassville and Guttenberg would serve more than 170,000 residents of Grant County in Wisconsin and Clayton, Delaware and Dubuque counties in northeast Iowa.

Most bridges over the river between the Twin Cities and the Quad Cities are located 30 to 40 miles apart, said Wamsley. However, the gap between the bridge at Prairie du Chien and the bridges at Dubuque is about 60 miles.

“Cassville falls right in that midway point,” Wamsley said. 

He also pointed out that there is a ferry between Cassville and Guttenberg, but the ferry doesn’t run year ‘round and also costs $15 one way. He said he has heard from many area residents and commuters  who would like a permanent way to get across the river between the two communities.

Keegan Morley, another Cassville native, and co-founder of the Badger-Hawkeye Bridge Coalition, has worked with UW-Platteville engineering students who conducted a study of the project, including design concepts. Based on the students’ designs, the project would cost about $175 million. Morley and Wamsley each said the $175 million cost is an estimate and the bridge could cost more than that or less than that.

The proposed bridge would span from the site of the former Nelson Dewey Generating Station north of Cassville to the current ferry landing on Oak Road east of Millville, Iowa.

The bridge is proposed as a four-lane, tied arch bridge which would also have bicycle lanes to help defray costs. Morley said a tied arch bridge is a cost effective design, it looks good, and is used a lot on the Upper Mississippi River. He also said a feasibility study for such a bridge at Cassville would be a tremendous step.

While the state DOTs have shown no interest yet, Morley, Wamsley and the rest of the Badger-Hawkeye Bridge Coalition hope they can gain the traction and support needed to persuade the citizens and legislators for the need to bridge the gap and gain economic prosperity.

“It’s gonna take the whole region,” said Wamsley.

In addition to the Badger-Hawkeye Bridge Coalition Facebook page, more information can be found by calling (608) 778-5667 or by emailing bridgecassville@gmail.com.

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