Transit service resumed today after being suspended since Thursday due to the historic flooding that has occurred in Cedar Rapids and the midwest. Since the GTC, about a block from the river, was right in the middle of the flood zone, a temporary on-street transfer site was set up at 4th Avenue and 12th Street SE. No revised maps or schedules have been made available yet, but additional transit staff were available at the transfer point to assist passengers. Only one bus was running on each route so service was hourly all day.
I am working with the Veterans Memorial Commission this summer, which takes care of the Veterans Memorial Building on Mays Island, which houses city hall offices. The basement and mezzanine levels were completely submerged by flood water pushed in from the attached underground parking garage. The first floor also had about two feet of standing water, completely ruining the auditorium floor and numerous artifacts in the Spanish American War Memorial Room that houses the VMC office.
I was back to work Tuesday, mostly picking up sandbags and debris at the police station, library, and public works as we aren’t able to do much work in City Hall until the water goes down. Today the downtown bridges were reopened to traffic and downtown was alive, getting right to work on cleaning up. I’ve heard it could take weeks to get power back to downtown so it will certainly be along time until it is back to normal. My hope is that downtown can comeback bigger and better than it was before. While the flood will inevitable hurt small shops and businesses the most, it appears the extensive damage could expedite some large projects planned for downtown.
According to a June 18, Gazette article, Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley want the federal government to move ahead with construction of the planned new federal courthouse, which has been continuously delayed for the past fifteen years, instead of spending time and money on repairs to the current facility which would be inadequate anyway. This seems like a sensible idea and then the current courthouse could be renovated right away into mixed-use as is planned by the City of Cedar Rapids when it is transferred ownership in exchanged for the land slated for the new courthouse at 8th Ave SE between the river and 2nd Street. The site will of course be elevated so the new courthouse will be above the 500 year flood plane.
Another project that could become even more of a priority is the planned intermodal transportation facility which has been changed a number of times over the past five to ten years of initial planning. Now slated for 3rd Street SE around 9th Ave SE, the facility would include a parking garage to replace the First Street Parkade along the riverfront that has reached the end of its useful lifetime. Small repairs and patches have kept it open in recent years but according to some parking guys I was working with on Tuesday, the flood waters more than likely put it in disrepair. Personally I don’t think downtown needs another parking garage and that there is plenty of parking already, but it’d be good to see this and other projects move forward.