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For third time, federal grant bypasses Tower Terrace Road project
Leaders ‘disappointed’ to not be picked for $25M grant
For the third year in a row, the Tower Terrace Road project across the northside of the Cedar Rapids metro area will not be awarded a $25 million federal grant that would exponentially speed up progress on the massive infrastructure improvement.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Thursday announced 166 projects across the country were being awarded a total of more than $2.2 billion from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity — or RAISE — program.
The RAISE program, formerly known as BUILD and TIGER, is a highly competitive U.S. Department of Transportation grant.
The federal funding could’ve made a drastic difference in the timeline to compete the Tower Terrace work, which aims to connect a four-lane road from Interstate 380 to Highway 13. Without the grant, the project is estimated to be completed in 2045. However, if the grant had been awarded, the project could’ve been finished in a decade.
While the metro area didn’t receive any funding, three other Iowa projects did receive awards this year.
The city of Waterloo was awarded $20.5 million for its La Porte Road revitalization project; the city of Dubuque was awarded just over $2.2 million to build a new bridge; and the city of Muscatine got $2 million for enhancements to one of its corridors.
But local communities in Eastern Iowa will have to wait another year to try again while simultaneously continuing to chip away at the work on the 8.3-mile Tower Terrace Road.
“I am so disappointed,” Hiawatha City Manager Kim Downs said. “I’m happy there were three Iowa projects funded, but we are going to keep working on it. I’ve reached out to our team about taking a look at some other dollars to get to work on bridges and other pieces. But we now need to circle back.”
“We were very hopeful for a successful application so of course, we are disappointed with the result,” Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said. “Nevertheless we can be proud of the work done and the partnerships formed, which will be important as we move forward.”
Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha Robins, Linn County and the Iowa Department of Transportation started earnestly in 2010 to plan for the project, though it has been an idea as far back as the 1960s.
In 2010, the Corridor Management Plan was adopted by the jurisdictions involved with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which aimed to take the idea of a completed Tower Terrace and turn it into a reality.
Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization Manager Elizabeth Burke has said the project has a benefit of $18 for every $1 invested by the year 2050, according to an analysis done as part of the RAISE grant application.
The communities together have applied for the grant three times now and have not received it. After previous applications, they received feedback about the application and how to make it stronger. The latest application included over 100 letters of support from businesses, unions and leaders in the community.
“We are proud of the applications our region put forward and are thankful to our 100 plus partners who submitted letters of support,” Marion City Manager Ryan Waller said. “The benefits of this project to the region are numerous and supported by reliable data. While we are disappointed we were not on the award list this year, we are confident it's not a question of if, but rather when.”
The remaining cost for the project is about $51 million, with an overall price tag of about $90 million. Last year, the project was awarded $5 million in federal appropriations, which were earmarked as a community funding project by Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, to help engineering work and right of way acquisition.
Right now, each jurisdiction has $10 to $20 million worth of projects remaining for Tower Terrace: Marion at $21 million; Hiawatha at $12.9 million; Cedar Rapids at $12.1 million; and Robins at $10.2 million.
Currently, the Iowa DOT is working on constructing a diverging-diamond interchange on I-380 at Tower Terrace. The project, at $22 million, is separate from the rest of the road’s cost and is being split among the state and the cities of Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. The cities are contributing $2.5 million each and the Iowa DOT’s portion is paid by a majority of federal funds with some state funds.
The interchange project is expected to be complete in spring 2023.
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