Frequently asked questions

Will there be a new bridge for Interstate 80 over the Mississippi River?

Yes. The Illinois Department of Transportation has determined the need for a new crossing to handle the current flow of traffic.

What is the location of the new I-80 bridge?

This is not yet known. The Department of Transportation is in the first phase of choosing the location. In this “study phase,” representatives from the DOT are conducting environmental and traffic studies to determine the best location to build a new crossing.

Who will make decisions about both the new bridge and the possibility of the Bison Bridge Project?

The Illinois Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Federal Highways Administration. Input from the public will also be welcomed. 

Why are you collecting signatures, and who are you sending them to?

The goal of collecting 50,000 signatures will help us make our case to the Department of Transportation at the next public meetings. Having signatures and letters of support will demonstrate to the DOT that there is community involvement and support for our proposal to repurpose the I-80 bridge. 

Where can I direct comments, concerns, and questions about the new I-80 bridge?

The DOT has a website for all things related to the I-80 bridge here.

How much will this cost? Will this raise my taxes? 

Our current estimate is that the entire project, including maintenance, will cost around $20 million. However, because this will be privately funded, there will be no tax increase.

Does the existing bridge need to be replaced due to safety concerns or structural issues?

The current bridge has plenty of life left in it! The DOT has determined that a new bridge is necessary to provide wider lanes and better traffic flow for the current amount of vehicle traffic. We do not have safety or structural concerns about continuing to use the bridge for a long time.

What about maintenance?

The Bison Bridge Foundation will provide private funding to conduct ongoing maintenance. Again, there are no safety concerns about the structure. 

What is the timeline for the new bridge? What is the timeline for the Bison Bridge?
Who will make decisions about both the new bridge and the possibility of the Bison Bridge Project?

The DOT is still in phase one of their process of vetting a location for the new bridge. Once the location is determined, the engineering phase will begin. At this point, the DOT will develop plans and contract construction documents for the new bridge. It is likely that the new bridge construction could begin as early as 2025, but this will be up to the DOT to decide. 

Because we still need a way to cross the Mississippi River on I-80, the construction to repurpose the existing bridge into the Bison Bridge would not begin until the new bridge is in place. 

I am a little concerned about the bison. How much room will they have?

With grazing land on both the Illinois and Iowa sides of the river and the span of the bridge itself, the bison will have sufficient areas of land. 

How many bison are we talking about, and how will the Bison Bridge Foundation care for them?

One of the first things we did upon creating the Foundation was hire a bison expert. Jason Baldes, the Tribal Buffalo Program Manager for the National Wildlife Federation, has successfully introduced a small herd of wild bison on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and serves as the representative for the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Buffalo Program. He also teaches at Central Wyoming College. Jason has advised that the herd at the Bison Bridge should be around 8-10 bison. Keeping the herd small will allow us to ensure plenty of grazing space for the bison to thrive.

Why are bison so important to this project?

Once upon a time, both Illinois and Iowa were prairie landscapes, with hundreds of thousands of American bison. As bison populations dropped to near zero at the end of the 1900s, so was the native prairie landscape replaced by agricultural and industrial landscapes. Bison, however, are a keystone species - that is, they are essential to maintaining the integrity of the food chain and plant life in the prairie biome. Efforts to reintroduce bison around the Midwest have been successful at both growing the bison population and restoring prairielands. 

Will the bison and the human visitors be safely separated from one another?

Yes! One side of the bridge will be repurposed for foot and bicycle traffic, and the other will be repurposed for wildlife crossings. The two sides of the bridge will be separated by a barrier that will allow for safe wildlife viewing for humans and safe passage for bison. 

I would love to volunteer for this project. How can I get involved?

Thank you! We hope to work with as many volunteers as possible to make this vision a reality. Please fill out the volunteer form. Right now the thing we need most is your voice! Please share the Bison Bridge concept with your friends, family, and colleagues or consider posting on your social media pages. Our first goal is to collect 50,000 signatures of support, and we won’t be able to do that without you!

I would like Chad and/or members of the Bison Bridge team to speak on my podcast/radio show/television program. How can I schedule a media appointment?

For all media inquiries, email chad@bisonbridge.org

Click here to access our full media kit.

I still have questions/concerns about the Bison Bridge project. 

Please send us a note at info@bisonbridge.org and we will do our best to answer your questions!