Ceremony marks opening of Savanna bridge over the Mississippi
Transportation officials from Illinois and Iowa joined local leaders from Savanna and their counterparts in Sabula, Iowa, to celebrate the opening of the new Savanna-Sabula bridge connecting the two cities with a larger, more modern structure.
The U.S. 52-Illinois 64 bridge over the Mississippi River replaces a structure that opened in 1932 and was just 20 feet across, the release said. The new bridge doubles that width, creating room for two wider lanes and a shoulder for disabled vehicles.
“The new Savanna-Sabula bridge greatly improves safety, better connects our communities and strengthens commerce in an important part of our state,” Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said in the release. “The new design is modern and eye-catching, but the biggest benefits will be enhanced quality of life and more economic opportunity for a vital gateway into Illinois.”
Savanna Mayor Chris Lain said at the ceremony that the bridge will be of benefit to both communities.
“This bridge will bring new economic opportunities to both of our communities." Lain said,
according to an Illinois Department of Transportation release. "I hope to see an increase in commercial traffic as well as tourism ... This project has been a nice boost to our local economy, with all the workers staying in and enjoying our beautiful town.”
Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) sponsored the resolution in the General Assembly to name the bridge the “Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge.” Gardner, a Savanna native, was a NASA astronaut who logged 337 hours in space when he was selected for a space mission in 1978. Gardner classmates from Savanna High School, where he was valedictorian in 1966, lobbied to have the bridge named after him. Gardener died at the age of 65 on Feb. 19, 2014.
“This project is much more than just a bridge to most of us. The Savanna/Sabula Bridge is a reminder of our history and our past. For me, the bridge is a reminder of my childhood when I would fight with my brother to give money at the toll booth, crossing it with my nieces and nephews, and of course listening to the amazement of visitors when the snow plows come out in the summer for the shadflies,” McCombie said. “Illinois and Iowa chose to believe in our future and our families and prove their commitment to us by developing a new gateway of opportunities. Today we have come together to celebrate new beginnings. The opening of the Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge will bring growth to our area through business development and tourism.”