116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Benefiting from an influx of federal cash as well as state and local funding, Cedar Rapids is accelerating construction of its $750 million permanent flood control system with projects this year on both sides of the Cedar River.
Rob Davis, the city’s flood control program manager, said the city will have spent over $45 million during fiscal 2022, the budget year that ended June 30, on flood control work and likely another $10 million or so in the 2023 budget year that started July 1.
City officials are celebrating the uptick in flood control work, especially on the west side of the river, but also are grappling with supply chain issues and inflation.
Public Works Director Bob Hammond said Davis works with the Army Corps of Engineers to try to anticipate supply chain issues.
“That mitigation that we’ve done — that trying to stockpile, purchase early, anticipate inflation rates on certain materials — is something that still is probably keeping us better than maybe others,” Hammond said.
Plus, Davis said working with the same contractors across much of the flood control system has helped crews work efficiently.
Here’s where flood control work is happening this season:
Crews are turning dirt and have demolished the old Hubbard Ice building to make way for long-awaited flood protection around the Northwest Neighborhood.
The council this Tuesday will receive a report on bids for a $3 million upper levee at O Avenue NW, a project being funded through the city’s $28 million allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act money.
Federal funding through the Army Corps covers permanent flood protection only on the east side of the river because of its cost-benefit formula — on the west side, the cost of adding flood control was greater than the value of the buildings it would protect, according to the Corps’ formula.
But city officials opted to speed up flood protection around the Northwest Neighborhood and Time Check with the availability of the new federal funds.
O Avenue NW will be elevated from Ellis Boulevard NW and under the Northwest Memorial Archway to First Street NW over the top of a levee. An on-road bike lane and separated multipurpose trail will lead to the top of the levee, which will have a trail running along it.
“That’s a huge milestone for the Northwest Neighborhood to get that area started,” Davis said.
That work is slated to start August and wrap up in September 2023, so O Avenue NW in the area will stay closed for the winter.
O Avenue NW work is happening now because of a project to extend Ellis Boulevard NW to First Avenue, which will open next year. The city will close the I Avenue NW rail crossing, so Davis said the city wants to reopen O Avenue as quickly as possible before closing that crossing and adding a new one.
Additionally, there will be additional removals of infrastructure — roadways, sidewalk, water main, sanitary sewer and storm sewer — for future flood control between Penn Avenue and B Avenue NW.
First and First West
While construction is underway at the $81.5 million mixed-use First and First West site, Davis said crews will start work around Labor Day on an estimated $9.9 million flood control project on First Street between E Avenue NW and Second Avenue SW.
There will be closures on First Street NW between First Avenue and Interstate 380 while a flood wall is built between First Avenue W and E Avenue NW.
First Street NW will be rebuilt and elevated over the top of this flood wall, and moved closer to the development, near the area that will host the Pickle Palace bar and grill.
Reopening of First Street SW south of First Avenue is anticipated next summer, before First and First West opens its first building on the block in fall 2023.
“We’re really trying to be cognizant of all the things going on so we don't have a development open and then we close the road right after,” Davis said.
The Army Corps intends to go out for bid this fall or late summer for a project that will add removable gates across Second Avenue, like the gate on Third Avenue, a flood wall at the Tree of Five Seasons and roller gates underneath I-380 on the east side, Davis said. Second Avenue will not close until First Avenue is reopened, likely starting in the fall.
Crews probably will not start the floodgate under E and F Avenues on the east side until next spring, coordinating with a project going out for bid next year at F Avenue NW. Work there will close down the area underneath the interstate going westbound.
The city is moving toward the Eighth Avenue Bridge replacement with some additional storm sewer work. Slated for 2024 or 2025, the bridge replacement will be an elevated and cable-stayed structure to keep a connection to downtown open during a flood of the 2008 magnitude.
On First Street SW in front of Ingredion, Davis said crews are channelizing the storm sewer into one outfall at the Cedar River, which will be a future mixed-use pump station next to the bridge.
Cedar Lake area
Crews are working to elevate the Shaver Road NE bridge about 7 or 8 feet to go over the flood control system and add a trail underpass.
“That's a truck route — naturally important to keep Shaver Road open during a flood of 2008 magnitude,” Davis said.
In the vicinity, Davis said the Army Corps has awarded a construction contract to redo the McLoud Run channel. It currently has a concrete channel and will be converted to a natural streambed to support the additional trout the rest of the stream already has. That also will include a levee in the coming years spanning from Shaver Road down along McLoud Run, and then turn a corner to Cedar Lake.
“That area will totally look different,” Davis said.
After five construction seasons, Davis said, work will finish to protect Quaker Oats north of downtown. The final project was putting in a railroad gate across the Union Pacific tracks.
“This is their largest plant in the country and we've been able to keep that fully operational at all times,” Davis said.
16th Avenue floodgates
As flood control work spans along the west side of the Cedar River, Davis said the 16th Avenue floodgate and flood wall for the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library has been “probably the smoothest project that we've had to date for the flood control system since we started.”
The project is ahead of schedule. The road reopened around Memorial Day, with tracks on the road for the gates to slide across and block rising waters from seeping into the surrounding neighborhoods. The east and west sides of the bridge have gateway arches identifying the bridge as a gateway to Czech Village and New Bohemia.
Czech Museum area
Soon, the city will relocate Riverside Park — closing the playground and skatepark to make way for a detention basin that will help meter stormwater into a future 12th Avenue pump station.
The city is working with the local skateboarding community and other neighbors for feedback on the replacement skatepark, which will be moved closer to C Street SW. The skatepark will close after Labor Day and reopen around Memorial Day 2023.
That project, funded with Iowa Flood Mitigation money, is part of the first phase of a $20 million detention basin, pump station and flood wall project adjacent to the Czech Museum. Davis said the museum yard will be terraced up to the flood wall, designed for holding wedding receptions.
“Those are the things that I think we all hope become the standard on how to do flow control,” Davis said. “It’s not just flood control. You weave it into the fabric of the community.”
12th Avenue floodgates
With 16th Avenue reopened, the city is preparing to close 12th Avenue for about eight to nine months to install floodgates.
While that street is closed, the city will add mini-roundabouts at 12th Avenue SE and Second Street SE, Davis said, similar to the ones on Johnson Avenue and Wiley Boulevard NW and Johnson Avenue and Jacolyn Drive NW.
“It’s not the ones with the grass in the middle, it’s just paved because it's a small location,” Davis said.
The African American Museum of Iowa will take the street closure as an opportunity to remodel its building.
The museum’s front entrance will be blocked by the gate, so it will be moved to the building’s east side. A $1.07 million contribution from the city will help cover the entrance relocation, impacted exterior landscaping, an upgraded lobby space and updated parking lot at 55 12th Ave. SE.
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