IOWA CITY — Two major construction projects in Iowa City are running later than expected because of heavy rains and flash flooding.
The city postponed an opening ceremony for the Gateway Project along Dubuque Street and has slowed work on the downtown Pedestrian Mall amid the recent wet weather. Originally, all lanes of Dubuque Street were expected to be open this month and most of the Ped Mall work was supposed to be done by mid-October.
Begun two years ago, the Gateway Project is a flood mitigation effort to raise Dubuque Street, a major artery into and out of Iowa City, by 10 feet — or 1 foot above the 100-year flood stage.
A new Park Road Bridge nearby also was built to be a foot above the 200-year flood stage.
The opening celebration was scheduled for Tuesday. But because of flooding around Lower City Park, the city plans to delay it until spring.
Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers increase the outflow of the Coralville Lake reservoir to about 12,000 cubic feet per second — making more room in the lake but affecting river levels downstream.
Melissa Clow, special project administrator for the city, said the street levels under the Gateway Project are now high enough that they wouldn’t be affected unless the flow were to greatly increase.
If a flood the size of the historic one of 2008 were to recur, she said, Dubuque Street would be closed for about five days — not the 30 days it was shut down in 2008.
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The new lanes now likely will be open in the next three or four weeks, Clow said, with smaller items like installing street lamps to follow.
The project still is expected to be on budget at the original bid price of $40.5 million.
“It’ll be a relief. We still have a lot of work to do to just get all those little items taken care of,” Clow said. “To be seeing traffic flowing and all the lanes open will feel pretty good. It’s a long time coming.”
The downtown Ped Mall work is a two-year effort to update underground utilities and improve the streetscape.
Scott Sovers, a senior civil engineer for the city, said crews are hoping to finish up the underground work done in the next couple of weeks with the hopes of starting the rebuild the surface shortly after.
“We’ve ran into a decent amount of rainy weather so it’s kind of set us back a little bit,” Sovers said, adding that crews also have discovered abandoned underground utilities they didn’t know about and have had to work around. Tight working space on the mall makes for a challenge as well.
Sovers said crews are hopeful they still can get everything done yet this year, but it depends on the weather. Next year, the city will do the same work on the College Street portion of the Ped Mall, beginning just after the University of Iowa’s graduation in May.
Sovers said the city expects the entire project to total about $8 million and be completed in fall 2019.
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