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Construction begins on Coralville interchange, plus other road projects in Johnson County metro area
Other projects include Clear Creek Trail connection in Coralville, Gilbert Street bridge replacement in Iowa City
CORALVILLE — Major reconstruction work of the First Avenue and Interstate 80 interchange in Coralville is kicking off this week.
Drivers should anticipate and plan for traffic delays as First Avenue is reduced to one lane in each direction over the interstate until fall 2024. This is the interchange at exit 242 near Iowa River Landing, Trader Joe’s, Xtream Arena and other local restaurants and businesses.
The long-awaited $35.6 million project will transform the traditional diamond interchange to a diverging diamond interchange, a design relatively new to Iowa but common in other states. The city and state have been discussing updating the interchange for nearly 20 years.
“We're really looking at a solid year and a half impact at the interchange,” Coralville City Engineer Scott Larson said, adding “it’s a complicated project.”
If all goes according to schedule, traffic should be on all new lanes and flowing better come winter 2024, Larson said. Additional work after that will likely be landscaping and other aesthetic work that should not impact traffic.
The project is expected to wrap up in spring or early summer of 2025, Larson said.
The northbound First Avenue bridge over I-80 will be closed and demolished first, meaning traffic will be one lane in each direction on the west side of First Avenue.
Once bridge work is completed, traffic will flip to the new side and remain one lane in each direction. The southbound bridge will then be closed and demolished later this year around November, Larson said.
Right now it feels like one massive bridge, Larson said, but the end result will be two distinct bridges.
What are the benefits of a diverging diamond interchange?
There are more than 150 diverging diamond interchanges in use around the country. The nation’s first diverging diamond was built in 2009 in Springfield, Mo.
These interchanges have several safety and operational benefits that transportation officials previously explained to The Gazette.
They increase left-turn lane capacity and have lanes designated for left and right turns. A diverging diamond interchange has fewer crashes, decreases vehicle “conflict points” and increases efficiency.
The diverging diamond footprint also is more compact than a traditional interchange.
The construction work also includes adding a third connection in and out of Iowa River Landing, south of I-80, with the extension of Iowa River Landing Place. This connection will likely be open in late 2024.
Additionally, there will be three underpass tunnels and a bridge over I-80 for cyclists and pedestrians.
Half of the project’s cost is funded by a $20.5 million BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The other half comes from the Iowa DOT’s budget.
The project’s prime contractor is Peterson Contractors, Inc. of Reinbeck, with the Iowa DOT administering and inspecting the project.
This interchange overhaul is one of the biggest projects in the Johnson County metro area. Here are some additional projects in Coralville, Iowa City and North Liberty to keep an eye out this construction season.
Fifth Street reconstruction: The first phase of the Fifth Street reconstruction project is anticipated to start in mid to late April.
There are five phases, with each requiring a complete road closure. The goal is to be done with substantial traffic impacts by the end of 2024, with work in 2025 to include landscaping and other final touch-ups, Larson said.
The $5.5 million project starts at 12th Avenue and goes through the 20th Avenue intersection. The work includes tearing out the pavement and replacing the sidewalks, as well as new water main and storm sewer. New trees, lighting and landscaping also will be added.
The first phase starts at the west end of the project area and includes the 20th Avenue intersection to just west of 19th Avenue.
Work on the first phase will wrap up by July and pause for the Fourth Fest parade and RAGBRAI. The project’s second phase — from the 19th Avenue intersection to the Coral Village Apartments — begins in early August.
Phases three, four and five will take place in 2024.
Fifth Street is home to the Coralville Public Library, City Hall, S.T. Morrison Park, as well as a variety of businesses, apartment buildings and other city buildings. It also hosts the city’s Fifth Street Social, which will not be impacted by construction since the event takes place east of 12th Avenue.
Clear Creek Trail connection: A portion of Camp Cardinal Boulevard will be closed for about a month in the early summer, likely in May or early June, to allow for a Clear Creek Trail connection between the Tom Harkin Trailhead and the shared use path along Highway 6.
“We've for years had this missing link that this Clear Creek Trail connection project is completing,” Larson said.
Once the final link is completed, there will be a continuous shared use path on Camp Cardinal Boulevard to Melrose Avenue in Iowa City. The paved path also will allow residents to reach the Post Office on James Street more easily on foot or by bike.
I-80/I-380 interchange work continues: The massive reconstruction of the Interstate 80/380 interchange is entering its fifth year ahead of schedule, with another milestone expected in the fall.
As has been the case since the project started, shifts in traffic patterns should be expected this year.
Gilbert Street bridge replacement: Construction on Gilbert Street Bridge is on track to begin by late April, resulting in a complete road closure for most of the year, City Engineer Jason Havel said.
The heavily traveled bridge near downtown will be removed and replaced with a new design. The bridge will remain four lanes, and there will be 6-foot sidewalks on both sides.
Construction on the $2.9 million project is expected to wrap up in early October, with incentives if the contractor finishes early.
Drivers should use S. Dubuque Street as a detour. Pedestrians should use S. Linn Street as a detour. There will be accommodations for parking and access to businesses during construction.
Rochester Avenue reconstruction: Work on the Rochester Avenue reconstruction project resumed this month.
With the street closed, the city said traffic control remains the same with a detour route using Ashwood Drive, Glendale Road/East Jefferson Street and Parsons Avenue.
The Montrose Avenue and Rochester Avenue intersection is closed again, the city said in a news release.
This project, which began in 2022, includes new pavement, sidewalk improvements, ADA curb ramps, buffered bike lanes and sewer upgrades.
“It’ll be a completely new corridor once we’re completed,” Havel said.
The contractor is anticipated to finish reconstruction up to or near the intersection at Rochester Avenue and North First Avenue this year. The project will finish in the 2024 construction season.
Benton Street rehabilitation: The Benton Street rehabilitation project begins next week.
Benton Street should remain open for most of the project, but Havel said there might be some short term closures during the project. He added that some of the side streets in the area will be closed as crews work on incorporating those to the new Benton Street pavement.
“We'll have a phase so that they can close those side street approaches, but we would not have them all closed at the same time,” Havel said.
The project covers Benton Street from Mormon Trek Boulevard over to Benton Drive. The street is heavily traveled and connects West High, Horn Elementary, residential neighborhoods to the city’s downtown and University of Iowa campus.
Among the construction work is improving the pavement, painting on-street bike lanes, sidewalk improvements and sewer improvements. Work is expected to wrap up in November.
It will be a “relatively light year” for road projects after a busy last year, City Administrator Ryan Heiar said.
There are a couple smaller projects Heiar mentioned. With these, drivers shouldn’t be impacted by the work but might feel the improvements once projects wrap up.
Improving portion of Penn Street: The city, in collaboration with the county, will resurface and improve a portion of Penn Street on the west side of town from Herky Street to James Avenue, Heiar said. The intersection at James Avenue will be improved as well.
Heiar said there will likely be lane closures and slower traffic, but a total closure of Penn Street shouldn’t be required.
The project is under design currently and will go out for bid in the coming weeks.
Shoulder widening on north portion of Ranshaw Way: The road shoulders will be widened on the north portion of Ranshaw Way from the 240th Street/Scales Bend Road intersection up to city limits.
“Right now they're gravel shoulders, and so we're going to widen and resurface them to a hard surface just to improve the safety of that area,” Heiar said, adding this will improve safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
There likely won’t be a road closure, but there might be occasional lane closures throughout the project, Heiar said. The city hopes to have the project done before July 1, he added.
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