Connect CR optimistic after $3 million request for bridge and trails

The Sleeping Giant or Sinclair Smokestack Bridge is part of the $24-Million Connect CR recreational trails plan. Group members requested help with a portion of the funding during a presentation to a legislative committee in Des Moines on Thursday.

It’s not money in the bank yet, but members of Connect CR say they received a very positive response Thursday when they spoke to the Transportation and Infrastructure committees in Des Moines and requested $3 million over three years. Connect CR is behind the effort to build the impressive Sleeping Giant or Sinclair Smokestack Bridge over the Cedar River, connect areas of town with trails and make improvements to Cedar Lake.

Connect CR Member Mike McGrath made the pitch to lawmakers and says they understand the $24-Million plan means much more to the community than just steel and concrete along the river, “ Just the transformational impact it can have on Cedar Rapids and really the whole area is significant. The flood created some real hardships and this has created one of the opportunities that’s come out of it and what could be a terrific asset recreationally, visually and in so many ways.”

GO Cedar Rapids CEO Aaron McCreight says the trail system from south to north is exactly the kind of attraction that can make a community a biking destination. He says imagine riding across the Sleeping Giant Bridge, stopping for lunch or coffee or to shop in NewBo, riding on to Czech Village for a brew at Lion Bridge and then on to Cedar Lake to watch the sun set. He says just the location of the lake could also lure a lot more tourists to town, “How many hundreds of thousands of cars drive up and down 380 every day that would see that windshield advertising and would say wow what is that, people who have never thought about getting off the interstate.”

The request comes amid a tough budget year for the legislature, but the effort has bi-partisan support. Republican State Representative Ashley Hinson of Marion is on appropriations and has championed the effort. She says there will always be the difficult task of setting financial priorities, but she says the Connect CR project is also about quality of life in the corridor, “ We have a great network of trails already, but I think what this does is it ties the bow on that package. Yes the budget is tight, yes there are a lot of competing things, but I’m going to be looking for creative ways to try to find some dollars to make it happen and I know a lot of the Linn County delegation is doing the exact same thing.”

The Connect CR group says it hopes the funding will make the cut and be included in the budget at the end of this legislative session. Steve Sovern, who has played a major role in the Sleeping Giant Bridge says with commitments from the city of Cedar Rapids and some private funders already onboard he’s optimistic as efforts continue to secure state and county contributions. He says a private funding campaign will likely begin later this year and work on the bridge could begin as early as summer of next year.

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