SABULA, Iowa — Safety concerns have forced the closure of a small bridge that offers the only Iowa access to a much-larger bridge spanning the Mississippi River and connecting eastern Iowa to western Illinois.
Motorists commuting from Sabula to Savanna, or vice versa, are facing a 36-mile detour after the unexpected bridge closure Tuesday.
Iowa Transportation Department Planner Sam Shea told the Telegraph Herald that the bridge could be closed until May and reopened around Memorial Day.
The closure comes after state officials found portions of pavement on the Sabula bridge to be settling Monday. A more thorough inspection Tuesday found additional issues.
Officials already had been planning to replace the bridge, which was built in 1933, and expected a 40-day detour beginning in April.
Local businesses had been preparing for the bridge closure later this spring, but will now need to adapt to the sudden change of plans.
Farmers who haul grain across the river may face higher fuel costs, according to Charles Brown, farm management specialist at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“Plus, the time involved,” Brown said. “They are going to be able to carry less loads.”
Shea said it’s unclear how the early closure will affect bridge replacement costs, which was previously estimated at $8.5 million.
“The contractor is going to have put in an adjustment in his timeline and an adjustment of working days,” Shea said. “If it turns out to actually make this whole thing shorter, then there could be cost savings. If it turns out to make this more complicated, there would be a cost increase there.”