Plan ahead for trips to Kinnick, Hancher due to Gateway Project
Project means traffic tie-up for many Iowa City residents
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IOWA CITY — If you’re driving to Iowa City this fall for a football game or performance at the new Hancher Auditorium, start planning your route now — and allow extra time for the journey.
That’s because the $40.5 million Gateway Project, designed to raise the flood-prone Dubuque Street, has reduced traffic on the primary route to the University of Iowa campus.
“All the locals know how to get around Dubuque Street,” said Melissa Clow, Gateway Project administrator.
But for non-locals — including new UI students and parents — officials from Iowa City, UI, Coralville, North Liberty and the Iowa Department of Transportation have come up with a plan to let drivers know about delays to avoid the worst traffic headaches this fall.
Park Road, the primary access road for Hancher Auditorium, has been closed since mid-June for crews to replace sanitary manholes and widen the road. This will be done next week, Clow said.
This means the thousands of people expected to pour into Hancher this fall for its first season in a new $176 million facility will have a newly paved wider road, with a much-needed turn lane.
The first major event of the season is a Sept. 16 free outdoor concert with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. On Sept. 24, comedians Steve Martin and Martin Short are coming to Hancher’s 1,800-seat auditorium.
“That show is sold out, so we’re looking at a lot of cars coming at the same time,” said Rob Cline, Hancher marketing and communications director.
Hancher plans to put out a news release and use social media to tell ticket-holders they should avoid Dubuque Street or expect delays, Cline said.
Possible alternates include taking Exit 242 from Interstate 80 onto First Avenue southbound in Coralville, then turning left on Highway 6 and another left onto Rocky Shore Drive, which becomes Park Road. Exit 246 onto North Dodge Street may be a good option for people approaching Iowa City from the east.
Theatergoers may choose to park east of the Iowa River and walk across the footbridge to Hancher, or take Cambus, Cline said.
The Iowa Hawkeyes first home game of the season is Sept. 3 at 2:30 p.m. against the Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks.
Fans who park in lots near Kinnick Stadium won’t have to mess with Dubuque Street, but people who park in the free lot by Hancher may want to plan for delays, said Matt Getz, assistant director of event management for the UI Athletic Department.
“We work with the Iowa DOT, the city and the university every year on how we’re going to manage our football traffic,” Getz said. “It’s the same group of people at the table, but (this year) we’re having longer conversations.”
The department plans to send an email to all ticket buyers by Aug. 29 describing the traffic situation and suggesting the best ways to get to the stadium, Getz said.
For two hours after home games Iowa City has agreed to make both available lanes on Dubuque Street northbound to I-80 to help fans get out of town. Signs will tell motorists about the temporary traffic flow change.
The Iowa DOT also will use electronic signs on I-80 to direct game day traffic.
Fans who don’t want to drive near the stadium could park near Coral Ridge Mall and take the Hawkeye Express. The train starts routes four hours before afternoon games and three hours before 11 a.m. games. The cost is $12 for adults; children 12 and under are free.
Most UI students living in the residence halls moved in this past week.
The UI sent multiple messages to students and parents about how to get to the dorms — especially Mayflower Hall, which is at the heart of Gateway Project construction. They even produced a video showing a driver taking the suggested route along North Dodge Street, east of campus.
“It wasn’t too bad for us,” said Hugh Scieszinski, of Mount Vernon, whose daughter, Mallory, was moving into Mayflower Wednesday morning. “My daughter sent us a map of how to navigate over here.”
Cheryl Benda and her family left Sun Prairie, Wis., at 4:30 a.m. so they could be among the first families moving into Mayflower.
“We wanted to get here before the rush of traffic,” she said as she waited for her freshman daughter, Angie, to check in.
Preventing future closures
Dubuque Street, which carries more than 25,000 vehicles a day from I-80 into Iowa City, was closed by flooding for three weeks or more in 1993, 2008, 2013 and 2014.
The Gateway Project will raise the street by 10 feet, or one foot above the 100-year flood level. The project also will replace and raise the Park Road Bridge, a functionally deficient span built in 1957 and overtopped by the Iowa River in 2008.
“This project is the only flood-mitigation project in the area that will significantly lower the water surface elevation of the river during significant flooding since the existing bridge acted as a dam,” Clow said.
Of the $40.5 million project, $7.5 million comes from federal funds. The rest is from local-option sales tax, Clow said.
Gateway Project construction is expected to be complete in August 2018, but city officials anticipate all lanes of Dubuque Street and the Park Road bridge to be open before then.
To sign up for Gateway Project email or text alerts, go to http://smgs.us/3k90.