Eastern Iowa trail projects dominate local plans for federal aid
Public comment on proposal open until Sept. 2
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The extension of the Hoover Nature Trail, among a number of local transportation projects, will get federal funding sooner than later, according to a state document.
The Hoover Trail would extend from City Hall in Ely to the Johnson County line thanks to $760,000 in federal aid in fiscal 2016, according to the 2016-19 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which is required to detail the use of federal money in state and city projects.
“By the beginning of summer, end of spring, they could be out there paving the trail,” said Brandon Whyte, a multimodal transportation planner for the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization. “That trail construction is extremely quick.”
The statewide program, which is updated annually, assembles recently approved plans from nine metropolitan planning organizations, including the Corridor MPO, and 18 rural planning organizations across Iowa.
The statewide program shows plans for federal aid from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. The Iowa Department of Transportation released the document Tuesday, starting a period of public comment that lasts until Sept. 2.
The program will be submitted for federal approval afterword, and money could be released as soon as Oct. 1.
“If we are going to use federal aid on a project, it must be shown in this document,” said Matt Chambers, a project manager at the Iowa DOT.
The Corridor MPO, which covers Cedar Rapids and surrounding urban areas, recently changed strategy for how it will use federal money, which is why the timeline for several projects has moved up. The agency traditionally waited to allocate federal money until it arrived, which could be three years after the money was approved, Whyte said. It created a large carry-over balance, he said.
“One of the things that DOT and Federal Highway (Administration) wanted the MPO to do is to spend down the large balance and put that money to good use,” according to an agenda from the most Corridor MPO meeting on July 30.
Trails are the spotlight of the Corridor MPO plan, which includes $9.3 million for trails and $2.7 million for projects other than trails.
The agency has an unusual split for federal transportation money, which comes mainly from federal gas taxes, with 80 percent going to trails and 20 percent for roads.
Local changes and additions in the 2016-19 plan for federal aid include:
l $2.5 million in fiscal 2016 to replace CEMAR Trail Bridges.
l $6.1 million in fiscal 2016, 2017 and 2019 to connect Cherokee Trail from Ellis Road to Morgan Creek Park.
l $1.8 million in fiscal 2016 to extend Cedar Rapids’ skywalk from the new parking ramp across from the city’s convention center and hotel to the skywalk connection at US Bank on Third Street SE. This had been planned for fiscal 2017 and 2018.
l $1 million in 2016 to widen the Boyson Road interchange.
l $836,000 in fiscal 2016 for Tower Terrace Road from Summerset to C Avenue.
l $925,000 in fiscal 2019 for Edgewood Road improvements from Highway 100 to Blairs Ferry Road.