Interstate commuters: there are orange traffic cones in your future.
As winter winds down and road construction season gets underway, drivers looking in many places to enter or exit Interstate 80 and Interstate 380 in the Corridor will encounter road work, some of it substantial.
Construction on several arterial routes in Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty — many a stone’s throw from the interstate — is planned.
Having multiple road projects on heavily-traveled roads in the same year isn’t ideal, said Jason Havel, city engineer for Iowa City, but sometimes is unavoidable.
“In a perfect world it wouldn’t happen this way, where it’s all being impacted at the same time,” Havel said. “It’s not something we would choose necessarily, but just the way the projects played out and operate on their own timelines, it unfortunately ended up this way.”
Often the availability of funding — which includes local dollars, as well as state and federal moneys — drives a project’s schedule.
Iowa City’s multiyear $40 million Gateway Project, which aims to elevate Dubuque Street and construct a new Park Road Bridge, could reach substantial completion by the end of the season. Work on it began nearly two years ago.
By the end of the year, Havel said, the hope is to have traffic on the new bridge and Dubuque Street lanes — being reconstructed to mitigate the impacts of flooding.
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“It’s one of those things where you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It’s exciting, but we also understand it’s going to be a busy year to get there.”
To the east, the city’s annual overlay project could slow traffic. The stretch of Governor Street between Burlington Street and where it joins North Dodge Street — a route used by many to get to Dodge Street’s interchange with I-80 — is on this year’s schedule.
Havel said the hope is to keep one lane open to traffic during the project.
Overly work also will be taking place on Iowa City’s main connecter to Coralville — Riverside Drive from the city limits to Sturgis Corner Drive.
While Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall doesn’t have vehicles traffic, the several downtown blocks get heavy foot traffic. The Ped Mall also is poised for an overhaul this year with the start of the city’s two-year effort to replace pavers, update landscaping features and utilities and install new permanent stage.
Then to the west in Coralville, work is slated to begin March 19 on the last of the widening projects on First Avenue — between Ninth and Sixth streets.
Ellen Habel, Coralville assistant city administrator, said while the southern half of the First Avenue widening project took place several years ago, securing funds for this stretch played a role in the timing.
“This is really the last year we could get that in and get it done before we lost that window,” she said. “While it’s not ideal to have construction on (First Avenue and Coral Ridge Avenue) in the same year, it’s going to be great when it’s done.”
The city’s other main connector to I-80, Coral Ridge Avenue, also is seeing its final widening project within the city limits — from Oakdale Boulevard to Forevergreen Road. Work is expected to begin Monday.
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At Coral Ridge Avenue’s interchange with I-80, the Iowa Department of Transportation also will be working this year to widen the street to create a dedicated lane feeding to the westbound I-80 on-ramp, said Cathy Cutler, transportation planner with the Iowa DOT District 6 office in Cedar Rapids.
Often pitched an alternative route to I-380, Highway 965 will undergo roadwork in some segments as well.
Going north, after Coral Ridge Avenue turns into Highway 965 — also dubbed Ranshaw Way in North Liberty — more widening is planned.
Widening will take place on the highway between Penn and Zeller streets, east of Penn’s interchange with I-380.
At Forvergreen Road, work is underway to build a new overpass, which soon will become an interchange with I-380. Cutler said the interchange should be finished by the end of next year.
The Forevergreen Road interchange, and several of the other local projects, are aimed at beefing up the infrastructure in preparation for the king of local road projects — the $300 million rebuild of the I-80/I-380 interchange.
The project, which will swap out the existing cloverleaf design for a modern turbine interchange, will see some utility work and clearing this year, with minor traffic impacts other than some lane reductions at night.
The bulk of the project begins in 2019, with the major traffic impacts, including lane closures, beginning in 2020.
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