IOWA CITY — Work on the heavily traveled Interstate 80 and Interstate 380 interchange and new I-380 and Forevergreen Road interchange has been ramping up, and traffic impacts have been minimal — so far.
As the Iowa Department of Transportation embarks on the early stages of a more than five-year, $300 million upgrade to one of the state’s busiest interchanges, state officials are trying to prepare commuters for the impending effects on traffic — the brunt of which may not be felt for a few more years.
“This is such a big project and impactful to a lot of people,” said Cathy Cutler, transportation planner with the Iowa DOT District 6 office in Cedar Rapids.
“This year is not as (impactful) as, say, the next three (years). It really depends on your route, how you use that interchange.”
Much of the project so far has focused on the creation of the Forevergreen Road/I-380 interchange, which has caused some short-term, overnight closures on the interstate, and will help divert traffic when the main project begins.
In the coming years, major construction will take place to convert the cloverleaf interchange where U.S. 218, I-80 and I-380 meet into a sweeping, modern-style design called a turbine intersection.
Officials say some ramps could be closed to traffic for months, if not entire years.
This year through next July will see some minor traffic impacts, such as closures on Kansas Avenue SW and traffic shifts for temporary shoulder pavement on both the I-80 westbound to I-380 northbound and I-80 eastbound to U.S. 218 southbound ramps.
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Work also will begin on grading and construction for the new interchange, including what eventually will be the I-80 eastbound to I-380 northbound flyover ramp.
Next year will see grading and shoulder construction along I-80, I-380 and U.S. 218, as well as median bridge construction. Other than some temporary lane closures and nighttime detours, traffic effects again should be minimal.
Also in that span, the Forevergreen Road/I-380 interchange will open to traffic, allowing for a detour option as work increase to the south, at I-80/I-380.
The Iowa DOT anticipates significant traffic delays for motorists entering the interchange from any direction in most of 2021 and 2022, according to state data provided to The Gazette.
Traffic impacts will begin to decline on some routes in 2023 and 2024 — the final two years of major construction. However, major delays are expected to continue for those two years for motorists traveling from westbound I-80 to southbound U.S. 218, northbound 218 to westbound I-80 and southbound I-380 to southbound U.S. 218.
Iowa DOT’s Cutler said specific construction projects and the timeline for any accompanying road closures will be fleshed out as projects’ starts near. However, state officials have told commuters to expect to see some ramps closed for entire construction seasons.
“We have a plan for marching through this project, but everything is always subject to change,” Cutler said.
She added detour options will be provided when full lanes or ramps close.
As major traffic impacts approach, Cutler said the Iowa DOT is working to communicate with businesses and commuters to encourage alternative routes or to avoid the interchange altogether, if possible.
Immediate traffic delays can be found at the Iowa DOT’s 511ia.org website and app.
The project’s tentative schedule includes:
Fiscal Year 2019
Clearing and grubbing — removing trees, shrubs and rubbish — utility relocation, grading north of Highway 6 and west of I-380 and construction on the Forevergreen Road interchange.
Fiscal Year 2020
Clearing and grubbing as needed, utility relocation, grading in the southwest and northeast quadrants, construction on eastbound to northbound and eastbound to southbound bridges and nighttime shoulder strengthening and widening work.
Forevergreen Road interchange is expected to be complete in the fall of 2019.
Fiscal Year 2021
Median reconstruction on I-80 and I-380, widening on I-380, grading and paving for various ramps, median bridge construction and bridge widening on I-80.
Fiscal Year 2022
New lane and various new bridge and ramp construction on I-80 and I-380 and grading and paving for a number of ramps.
Fiscal Year 2023
New lane and various new bridge and ramp construction on I-80 and I-380 and grading and paving for various ramps.
Fiscal Year 2024
Final I-80 paving and bridge work and Park Road/Jasper Avenue Bridge construction over I-80.
Fiscal Year 2025
Finish erosion control.
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