Cedar Rapids street projects press on despite derecho and disease

City spent $14 million in seventh year of 'Paving for Progress'

Work continues Nov. 20, 2020, at the intersection of 29th Street NE and Center Point Road NE as part of Cedar Rapid's Pa
Work continues Nov. 20, 2020, at the intersection of 29th Street NE and Center Point Road NE as part of Cedar Rapid’s Paving for Progress road improvement program. Projects are funded by a 1-cent local-option sales tax, which was approved by Cedar Rapids voters in 2013. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — For a few months, construction to rebuild the Center Point Road NE and 29th Street intersection troubled some parents dropping off their children at the Precious Moments Montessori Preschool Daycare, according to Diana Pagan, its director.

But now that crews have wrapped up the project, Pagan says she appreciates the intersection’s ample space and she’s “overall very pleased” with the work.

“It is a smoother drive,” she said. “I do appreciate it. It looks prettier and I do like that as well. They did good work.”

Reconstructing that intersection and converting traffic to a two-way operation on Center Point Road NE between J Avenue NE and 29th Street NE were among the highlights of Cedar Rapids’ 2020 Paving for Progress program. This marked the seventh year of the program that is funded by the voter-approved 1-cent local-option sales tax.

Residents have reported in city surveys that streets remain a top concern. The temporary headache for motorists is worthwhile to see improvements, Pagan said.

“The roads in Cedar Rapids, generally speaking, were in rough shape,” Pagan said. “I do like that our road was redone, even though there was that inconvenience of a few months. … But I do overall appreciate it more having the new roads versus when we didn’t have (the program), even with the inconvenience.”

The $1.6 million the city spent on Center Point Road NE was a portion of the $14 million in 2020 street projects. Doug Wilson, the Paving for Progress program manager, said the city had invested about $120 million in over 62 miles of work through the program since it began in 2014.


The city reports it took in nearly $22 million in local-option sales tax revenue for fiscal 2020, which ended June 30, and has taken in another $12.3 million so far this budget year.

“We’re making a lot of great progress and just looking forward to continuing the program into the next years and beyond that, hopefully,” Wilson said.

The local-option sales tax expires in 2024 unless voters are asked to extend it and agree.

While the “double whammy” of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Aug. 10 derecho delayed some road work in the city, Wilson said, a strong December helped move projects along.

“We could have been in a tough spot on some of the streets with having to maybe go in and do temporary paving,” Wilson said.

Public Works Director Jen Winter said there were preliminary discussions last spring at the onset of the pandemic about postponing certain work across the department as the funding outlook seemed dismal, more so for state road use tax revenue. That money helps fund maintenance and construction of the city, county and state transportation system.

“Fortunately that really didn’t come to fruition and we didn’t have to make many adjustments, if any adjustments, just due to funding,” Winter said. She added that adjustments generally were made to ease inconvenience to businesses located near a street construction site or because of derecho delays.

In addition to the Center Point Road NE work, the city spent $2.5 million for a second year on a multiyear street replacement project on O Avenue NW between Edgewood Road and Ellis Boulevard. Work in 2020 focused on the segment from 24th Street NW to 16th Street NW.

“We do try to find that balance in reconstruction, rehabilitation and maintenance and we continue to do that by working with our streets division, who’s done literally hundreds of local residential streets here in Cedar Rapids — block after block after block of resurfacing, patching up those streets to extend the life of each street,” Wilson said. “So we’re spending the taxpayers’ dollars very efficiently over time.”


The city also made progress on its multiyear effort to rehabilitate Oakland Road NE and Old Marion Road NE between Coe Road and C Avenue, focusing on the segment between Regent Street and C Avenue to improve the pavement surface, replace the water main and make disability access enhancements.

For 2021, Paving for Progress will focus on:

• Sixth Street SW from Wilson Avenue to 33rd Avenue: Pavement resurfacing, water main improvements and sidewalk installation on both sides of the road. Wilson said this was a project that was delayed a year to ease the burden on businesses in the area.

• Oakland Road NE and Old Marion Road NE from Center Street to Regent Street: Pavement reconstruction, utility work and sidewalk infill. This will mark a complete reconstruction and rehabilitation of Oakland Road NE, Wilson said.

• Council Street NE from Collins Road to Blairs Ferry Road: Pavement improvements.

• Twelfth Avenue SE from Seventh Street to 17th Street: Utility improvements and pavement reconstruction.

Cottage Grove Avenue SE from First Avenue to Forest Drive: Pavement reconstruction, drainage and pedestrian/trail improvements for the street where residents fought construction of a roundabout.

• C Street SW from Bowling Street to Handley Drive: Pavement patching and resurfacing with sidewalk gap infill.

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