The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, opened September 28, 2008, and is one of the longest pedestrian bridges ever built. The total length of the bridge is 3,000 feet and the towers carry a unique curved 506-foot main span and two 253-foot back spans.
The bridge connects Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, by traversing the Missouri River It carries walkers and cyclists into 150 miles of trails in Iowa and Nebraska.
The bridge is north of the I-480 girder bridge and connects the Port of Omaha's Miller Landing in Omaha to One Renaissance Center in the former Dodge Park Playland in Council Bluffs.
The idea for the bridge was first brought up in 1997 and grew out of former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey's "Back-to-the-River" efforts. The bridge is intended to redefine the area's skyline and symbolize the cooperation between Omaha and Council Bluffs.
The cable-stayed bridge offers a powerful visual impact as is designed to look like giant sails. The bridge's dramatic look comes from single-tower pylons, standing above the water on both sides of the Missouri River that give the superstructure a simple elegance and opportunity for dramatic lighting.
The lights on the bridge were donated by The Gallup Organization, who have a training facility located on the Missouri River near the Omaha landing of the bridge. The bridge lights include programmable controls that can display multiple colors in the large lights at the top of the towers and control the brightness and timing of the lights that run the entire 3000 ft. length of the bridge. The lights were officially unveiled in a ceremony on September 13, 2008. The bridge lights were turned on while the Phil Collins song "In The Air Tonight" was played over a PA system. The event was accompanied by fireworks.
The bridge's deck features a constant, unobstructed width of 15-feet over the entire length of the bridge, widening out to 20-feet on the Omaha landing so that there is enough width for both cyclists and pedestrians to comfortably share the path. The structure and its connections are ADA compliant to ensure that everyone can enjoy it.
The $22 million project was largely funded by a $17 million federal transportation grant secured by Senator Bob Kerrey in 2000. Other funding came private donations, including $1 million each from The Peter Kiewit Foundation and Iowa West Foundation, a $1.7 million federal planning grant, $1 million from the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, and $1.5 million each from the states of Nebraska and Iowa.
Construction of the bridge was not without its challenges. The bridge was first designed by the Omaha-based architect firm Bahr Vermeer & Haecker. When originally let in 2004, the apparent low bid for the $22.6 million dollar project was $44.9 million. After the bids are formally rejected, it was concluded that the proposed design would cost $45 million to $50 million build. Strapped for funds, the city was forced back to the drawing board to come up with an affordable design.
In May 2006, a final cable-stayed bridge design by Kansas City engineering and architectural firm HNTB was selected for the bridge. The $22 million bid included two 200-foot towers and a clearance of 52 feet above the river. Groundbreaking for construction of the bridge occurred on October 26, 2006.
Larry Foster of Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation was with the project since its beginning and he told a local newspaper just prior to the bridge's opening that he'd never take the view for granted. "In some ways, this could almost be thought of as the bridge that almost never was," he said.
Foster said there was serious concern at that time that the original bids came in as to whether the bridge could be built at all. He said his team took a big step back, deciding to spend a whole year to figure out a new way to get the project done. He said the team never lost hope and eventually found the right plan at the right price.
Foster said a team of architects, engineers and contractors worked together to create a bid for the project. That approach, known as a design-build process, was used for the first time in Nebraska history on the pedestrian bridge.
A six-member bridge naming committee recommended the structure be named the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. The recommendation was sent to Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan, and both city councils approved the name in September 2008.
Joseph Robert "Bob" Kerrey
Joseph Robert "Bob" Kerrey was born in Lincoln, Lancaster County Nebraska, born August 27, 1943; attended the Lincoln public schools, including Lincoln Northeast High School; graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1966, with a degree in pharmacy; during his senior year at Nebraska he was a member of the Society of Innocents, the chancellor's senor honorary; served in the United States Navy SEAL special forces unit, 1966-1969; wounded in Vietnam, losing the lower part of one leg in combat, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life"; operated a chain of restaurants and fitness centers 1972-1982; Governor of Nebraska 1983-1987; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1988; unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992; reelected in 1994, and served from January 3, 1989, to January 3, 2001; was not a candidate for reelection in 2000; chairman, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (One Hundred Fourth Congress); president, New School University, New York City, since 2001; member, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9-11 Commission) 2003-2004.
Senator Kerrey was known by political observers for his independence, candor and tireless determination. While in Congress, Senator Kerrey served on the Finance Committee, Agricultural Committee and Appropriations Committee, and was vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.