Shuffling Tower Terrace Road money could benefit new Hy-Vee
But gaps may be problematic for Tower Terrace interchange
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Shifting federal money from one segment of Tower Terrace Road to another would help pay for a road where Hy-Vee plans to build a new location, but may not bode well for another priority — a new interchange on Interstate 380.
The Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization is recommending allocating $760,000 toward building a segment of Tower Terrace Road from Alburnett Road in Marion to C Avenue in Cedar Rapids. Hy-Vee already owns the land southwest of C Avenue and the eventual intersection with Tower Terrace in north Cedar Rapids.
“It’s not really about kick starting development, it’s about removing barriers to development,” Nick Glew, president of Marion Economic Development Co., said of the funding shift. “There are projects across the entire Tower Terrace Road corridor that will move forward once the connection between Marion and Cedar Rapids is complete.”
The Corridor MPO is recommending defunding $760,000 from a segment of the Tower Terrace project from Robins Road to Council Street after cost estimates jumped from $5.7 million to $18.65 million due to a requirement for a bridge over railroad tracks in addition to inflation.
Public comment is being accepted on the plan, which will be up for vote March 17.
Tower Terrace for decades has been planned as an arterial belt to connect north metro communities and spur development from I-380 to Highway 13, but has been slow to materialize and remains fragmented. An I-380 interchange would be a catalyst to spur traffic and growth in the area.
The Robins-Council segment would have expanded Tower Terrace’s western most segment, which already touches I-380.
Now it is removed from the planning calendar because none of the communities have money for the new price tag. This could also prove problematic for hopes for an interchange because Tower Terrace ends in a field of trees a mile east of I-380.
“If there’s a gap in Tower Terrace it could impact the decision with going forward with the interchange,” said Cathy Cutler, a district planner with Iowa Department of Transportation.
The Iowa DOT had nearly completed an interchange justification report for Tower Terrace and I-380, but put that was put on hold due to the potential expansion of I-380 from four to six lanes, she said. If that happened, the bridge at the Boyson interchange would need to be replaced, she said.
The Iowa DOT would like to tackle the Boyson and Tower Terrace interchanges as one. There are multiple options that are being studied, including whether to prioritize Tower Terrace first to relieve traffic during the Boyson project. Cutler said it could take 18 months to complete the reports and studies for the two projects.
One positive mark for a Tower Terrace interchange is that while it extends only a short distance from I-380, it intersects with Center Point Road, which is a major north-south arterial and could aid traffic relief, Cutler said.
Glew remains optimistic about funding recommendations for Tower Terrace. He said it moves the money from a stretch that couldn’t be paid for to one that is “more shovel-ready.” Hy-Vee is waiting on this segment to be complete, he said.
“This would put money to a section where it can more quickly be put to use,” Glew said. “We are not taking money away from Tower Terrace. We are moving it to a different section. From my perspective, this is a positive thing because we will be to see results.”
Glew is part of team seeking funding for a Tower Terrace Road economic development study, which could be used to help get communities, the state or other entities to pay to get the road completed.
According to a Cedar Rapids timeline, the $10.5 million project — $7.66 million from federal sources — would connect Alburnett to C Avenue by fall 2018. A $2.3 million project would connect C Avenue to Summerset Avenue by fall 2018.
Doug Wilson, a Cedar Rapids city engineer, noted the timelines are tentative and the city is working to acquire needed land.
Hy-Vee did not respond to questions seeking comment, although a Cedar Rapids official said the C Avenue location is not on the company’s two-year building plan.
The future is cloudy for the Robins-Council segment, which is less than a mile long but part of a key growth area near Hiawatha and Robins.
“Other than the interchange itself, it’s going to be the most challenging piece we need to get done,” said Lon Pluckhahn, Marion city manager. “The fact the design now calls for bridge structures makes it really expensive for a real short piece.”
Plans for Tower Terrace Road
Pluckhahn said completing C Avenue to Alburnett Road, which ends at a roundabout, will be an important connector for Marion.
“Marion really desperately needed that transportation corridor for our own internal traffic, and this next link to Cedar Rapids is really important for us to help out with our traffic patterns,” he said.