Government

Plan envisions big upgrade for Coralville interchange

Work near Iowa River Landing tentatively set for 2024

Work continues on the I-80/I-380 Systems Interchange Project in Tiffin on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Work continues on the I-80/I-380 Systems Interchange Project in Tiffin on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

An overhaul of one of Coralville’s busiest gateways off Interstate 80 is proposed in a draft of Iowa’s latest transportation improvement plan released Tuesday.

Meeting in downtown Cedar Rapids, the Iowa Transportation Commission looked at a draft of the 2020-2024 plan to put roughly $3.5 billion into highway and bridge projects across the state over the next five years.

The latest five-year plan includes Coralville’s long-awaited I-80 and First Avenue interchange project, which would replace the existing interchange with a modern design.

“It will be a fresh look at a very busy intersection,” Coralville Mayor John Lundell said.

Located next to the growing Iowa River Landing District, the diamond-style interchange was built in the 1970s but is no longer sufficient to handle the traffic level.

Coralville City Engineer Dan Holderness said the interchange sees more than 80,000 daily motorists. One of the biggest safety and congestion issues is tied to the large number of left turns at the interchange.

The approximately $36 million project would replace the existing interchange with a diverging diamond design — creating signal-controlled crossover lanes for those taking First Avenue to the interstate. The design ultimately eliminates left turns across opposing lanes, Holderness said.

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“This particular style of interchange does a very good job of safely accommodating higher volumes of left-turning traffic,” he said.

Holderness noted the project has been in the works since 2004.

“We are anxious to move forward,” he said.

Lundell said the project also will provide a designated lane for trucks entering and exiting the nearby Magellan Midstream Partners, as well as create an additional connector to the Iowa River Landing near the Von Maur building.

“It will be a great improvement to the community, both for visitors and the local traffic,” Lundell said.

If the proposed timeline in the five-year plan holds true, the First Avenue interchange project — tentatively slated for 2024 — shouldn’t coincide with the nearby Interstate 380/I-80 interchange project. That major project should near completion about 2023, if the schedule sticks.

The state commission is expected to vote next month on the five-year plan, which is updated annually.

All told, the five-year draft details more than $2 billion toward highway modernization and safety features, with another more than $1 billion focused on state-owned bridges.

Other local projects in the program planned for the five-year span include the I-380/I-80 interchange project; six-lane improvements to I-80 in Johnson and Cedar counties; and a Tower Terrace interchange with I-380 in Hiawatha in 2022.

As with previous five-year programs, the draft notes advanced investments in Iowa’s roads and bridges thanks to the now 4-year-old, 10-cent fuel tax increase.

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Officials have said the dime tax increase added about $500 million last year to the state’s five-year programming.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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