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Coralville, North Liberty working to secure funding for Forevergreen Road extension
East extension a ‘crucial link’ for metro area, city leaders say
CORALVILLE — The cities of Coralville and North Liberty are working together to try to secure funding to connect fast-growing Forevergreen Road to North Liberty Road, a move that would open up access in the area to both Interstate 380 to Interstate 80.
The 1.3-mile extension to the east is not only a “crucial link“ for Coralville and North Liberty, but is important for the Johnson County metro area, city leaders said. The $10 million project also will take some pressure off surrounding streets in an area that continues to grow and attract development.
Forevergreen Road connects some of the state’s fastest growing cities. The road feeds into Tiffin on the west and North Liberty and Coralville on the east. It has been called a “gateway” that would close the gap between the cities.
Other construction in the area includes the University of Iowa’s new North Liberty hospital and a large Coralville subdivision dubbed Forevergreen Heights. A new elementary school is also planned.
The two cities have been closely working together to move forward and advocate for the project.
“We had studied this for a long time and had planned for it, but once Iowa (Department of Transportation) put in the 380-Forevergreen Road interchange, that really changed the need and demands,” Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said. “Now that people can access directly Interstate 380 from Forevergreen Road, this last link is very important.”
Forevergreen Road extension project
The cities of Coralville and North Liberty are working together to secure funding to extend Forevergreen Road to the east about 1.3 miles. City officials have expressed how this will not only help transportation in the two cities but a “crucial link” for the Corridor. Click or press on the image to zoom in on a much larger version.
Source: City of North Liberty
Years of planning
The road extension will connect Forevergreen Road to North Liberty Road. This will complete a 7.3-mile arterial street corridor between the Dubuque Street interchange on I-80 and the Forevergreen Road interchange on I-380.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County has Forevergreen Road listed as an arterial street in its plan. Forevergreen Road is the next logical arterial street for the community and “hugely important for development,” Kent Ralston, the organization’s executive director, previously told The Gazette.
“This just opens up other options for people to move not just through Coralville and North Liberty but through the metro area,” Coralville City Engineer Scott Larson said.
The location of the road extension was determined about a decade ago through a study done by the two cities with input from adjoining property owners, North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar said.
“We have been planning this together for a long time, and we're at that stage where we're now ready to implement pieces,” Hayworth said.
Heiar said the cities knew two factors would drive the project — funding and development in the area.
Focus on funding
Coralville and North Liberty are exploring potential funding opportunities at the state and federal levels. The cities are working with the office of Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to try to get the project pushed forward, Hayworth said.
“There seems to be potential funding options and so that’s why we’re pressing hard here to see if we can leverage as much outside funding on a project like this,” Heiar said. “It will be an expensive project. There’s quite a bit of terrain to travel here. It’s not just flat area. There will be some challenges.”
Those challenges, Heiar said, will be better known once the design process starts.
Larson said the road is not actively being designed and a consultant has not been hired because the focus is on pursuing funding. Currently, there isn’t a timeline for the project, he added.
“Here's another example of communities working together to try to leverage federal dollars and to maximize local dollars so that we're as efficient and effective as possible,” Heiar said.
Forevergreen Heights development
Forevergreen Heights — a large residential development underway in Coralville — will add about 1,000 residential units to the area east of the planned road extension.
The project area — which is roughly bound by North Liberty Road, Rustic Ridge Road and Dubuque Street — is one the city has long been exploring for growth and expansion, Coralville Mayor Meghann Foster said. The project is south of Liberty High School.
The 208-acre mixed residential project will include 362 single family units, 406 two- to four-family attached units and 232 multifamily units, Hayworth said.
The project was approved last year by the Coralville City Council and is in its second phase. The developer anticipates completion in four to five years. Construction has been on schedule, Hayworth said.
“Anytime we have areas of growth, thinking about how we can make it as attractive as we can for people who want to come here and thinking about how all of the pieces fit together, whether it's the proximity to schools, the collaboration with other municipalities, the infrastructure,” Foster said.
The developer is responsible for building a segment of Forevergreen Road in the Forevergreen Heights project area. That portion will connect North Liberty Road to Dubuque Street. A roundabout in the subdivision is currently under construction.
North Liberty doesn’t have a residential project planned in the area, Heiar said. The city’s Forevergreen Estates project is along Forevergreen Road, but near the I-380 interchange on the west.
“Regardless, we see this as an important project for the entire transportation system,” Heiar said.
Future elementary school
The Iowa City Community School District is planning a future elementary school north of the Forevergreen Heights development. The district owns about 40 acres of land within Coralville city limits.
There are three existing schools in the area: Van Allen Elementary, North Central Junior High and Liberty High.
Project design for the new elementary school is planned for 2026, with construction starting the following year. It is anticipated that the $20 million project will wrap up by the end of 2028, according to district documents.
“Our district is in continual collaboration with our municipalities, including the cities of Coralville and North Liberty, to understand and plan accordingly based on housing development plans,” said Iowa City Community School District spokesperson Kristin Pedersen.
Forevergreen west of I-380
While Coralville and North Liberty are working together on the eastern link, a yearslong legal dispute between Coralville and Tiffin over a sliver of land west of the I-380 Forevergreen Road interchange may be heading to the Iowa Supreme Court.
The land, owned by Coralville through a quit claim deed, will connect Forevergreen Road in North Liberty to Tiffin. But who will build the final connection and how it will be done has been delayed by lawsuits dating to 2019 and continuing today.
Coralville, in court filings, says the land is its public property and Tiffin does not have the authority to acquire a portion of it through eminent domain. In court filings, Tiffin called the quit claim deed for the land a “sham” and “an effort to thwart” that city’s Forevergreen Road project.
A district court judge issued a ruling in April in favor of Coralville, granting a permanent injunction against condemnation and said Tiffin does not have the authority to use eminent domain on it.
Both cities filed motions after the ruling, which 6th Judicial District Judge Jason Besler denied July 11. This means the April decision remains in effect — for now. Tiffin filed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court on Aug. 8.
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