Government

Iowa transportation plan includes wide range of projects

(FILE PHOTO) Traffic moves past road construction work along Interstate 80 south of North Liberty on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) Traffic moves past road construction work along Interstate 80 south of North Liberty on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Iowa’s latest five-year transportation improvement plan includes a plethora of projects statewide, ranging from the massive interstate work to much needed bridge replacements.

The Iowa Department of Transportation this week unveiled a draft of the $3.4 billion Iowa Transportation Improvement Program for fiscal years 2019-2023.

The plan is updated annually and scheduled for a June approval by the Iowa Transportation Commission.

“What you end up seeing is a whole mix of bridge deck overlays, up to four-lane U.S. 30 work, to Interstate 74 bridge replacement in the Quad Cities, to pavement overlays in rural Iowa,” said Stuart Anderson, director of the Iowa DOT’s Planning, Programming and Modal Division. “It’s a really good mix of work across the state of Iowa.”

What’s more, Iowa’s now three-year-old, 10 cent fuel tax increase continues to pump revenue into state road and bridge projects. The dime tax increase is expected to add approximately $508.1 million — about 15 percent of all funds — to state projects over the five-year span.

The state receives 47.5 percent of fuel tax revenue, while counties and cities take the remaining 52.5 percent. State projects are determined by the Iowa Transportation Commission.

“That’s been tremendously impactful for the commission’s ability to address those critical needs,” Anderson said.

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Some of the local projects added to the list with fuel tax funds include two Highway 1 bridge replacements in Johnson County — a $750,000 project over an unnamed stream and an estimated $3.65 million bridge replacement over Old Man’s Creek. Both projects are slated for 2020.

In Linn County, fuel tax dollars will go toward next year’s $2.75 million lighting project on Interstate 380, from Third Avenue SW to Eighth Street NE.

That project will include the replacement of 100 light poles on the interstate and ramps as well as 100 underdeck light fixtures, which illuminate surface streets below the interstate.

Cathy Cutler, transportation planner with the Iowa Department of Transportation’s District 6 office in Cedar Rapids, said the project — which also includes junction boxes and wiring — will replace a lighting infrastructure that was installed in 1979 with a new LED system.

The aging infrastructure has been the source of increasing maintenance projects out on and below the interstate, Cutler said.

“It’s very difficult to work out there. You have to close a lane at times,” she said. “Getting new lights will be a great improvement.”

The lighting project will be bid next January.

Linn County in 2020 also will see a roughly $12 million rebuild of more than four miles of Highway 13 south of Central City. The project includes culvert extensions, grading and paving and new traffic signs.

In addition, new fuel tax dollars will help complete the state’s four-lane widening project on U.S. 30 in Tama and Benton counties, the report states.

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However, while the gas tax fuels increased infrastructure spending, uncertainty looms in another source of project revenue — the federal government.

The 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST, is set to expire Sept. 30, 2020 — before the third year of the fiscal year 2019-2023 state highway program.

“Therefore, we have some uncertainty about federal funding after this date. Members of the commission and Iowa DOT leadership will meet with Iowa’s Congressional delegation to continue to advocate for a long-term federal transportation authorization bill,” the report states.

Federal funds make up about $500 million of the current program, the DOT’s Anderson said.

“It’s significant revenue that comes in and is invested in Iowa roads and bridges,” he said. “We’re at the point where that uncertainty for federal funding is starting to creep in again.”

Anderson said a five- or six-year extension of the FAST Act would be ideal, but short-term extensions also are possible.

Local state projects funded with increased fuel tax revenue

Linn County:

• 2019-2020: Grading and paving, culvert extension and traffic signs on Highway 12 south of Central City. About $12 million.

• 2019: Updated light poles, under-deck lights and infrastructure along and below Interstate-380 from Third Avenue SW to Eighth Street NE. $2.75 million.

Johnson County:

• 2020: Bridge replacement over an unnamed stream on Highway 1 south of Iowa City. $751,000.

• 2020: Bridge replacement over Old Man’s Creek south of Iowa City. $3.65 million.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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