TIPTON — Tipton, a city of 3,200 in Cedar County, wants some of the things larger Iowa cities take for granted, including bike paths, broadband internet and a smooth main drag that doesn’t flood in the spring.
The city has applied for a $4 million federal grant to add to the scope of a planned replacement of Highway 38. The additional funds would pay for a 1-mile bike path, decorative street lighting, a new traffic signal and conduits under the street for fiber broadband.
“Between this project and other programs that we’ve started, we’re doing things to try to retain our current citizens and attract new ones,” City Manager Brian Wagner said. “We’d like people to look just a few more miles east of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids as they consider where they’d like to put down roots.”
Tipton will learn by Nov. 12 whether it has been chosen for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant program, which helps the U.S. Department of Transportation invest in road, rail, transit and port projects across the country.
If the city gets the grant, the Highway 38 project will cost $7.34 million and start in 2021. If not, Tipton can apply for BUILD again next year or do the road-only portion with $3.35 million already secured from the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Stacy Meinert, co-owner of Tiffiny’s Tipton Bakery, would like to see the full project move forward.
“It’s been needing to be done for 10 years,” he said, adding that Highway 38 has been patched many times, leaving the road bumpy and sloped from the center. “It has such a crown on it now, if you get a decent rain, the parking spots are full of water.”
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Jamie Woode, owner of T & M Clothing, a retail clothing store and custom embroiderer, said she’s excited for more bike paths. Now, her family drives to Cedar Rapids for longer trail rides.
“I’ve got a 14-year-old and a 10-year-old and they want to ride their bikes,” she said. “The street kind of scares me and the sidewalks aren’t in the best condition.”
Both businesses are on Highway 38, which runs north and south through town, where it’s called Cedar Street. Having portions of the road closed for repairs might be challenging for customers, but Meinert said there is plentiful parking on side streets.
Tipton invited elected officials to see Highway 38 in August to persuade them to support the BUILD grant application. Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, who represents Iowa’s 2nd District, was there, as were staff for Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, went on the Aug. 22 tour and state Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, came a week earlier, Tipton Development Director Linda Beck said.
The bike path that would be added as part of the project would go from Alexander Drive, south of town, to the Tipton High School football field. The city is working on another bike trail south of town, Beck said. The paths are important for cyclists and pedestrians — many of whom now walk on the Highway 38 shoulder.
The city’s only traffic light would be upgraded to include verbal alerts and Braille instructions and the fire department could change the light when a crew is responding to an emergency.
Underground water mains at least 75 years old would be replaced and new conduit would expand broadband for the city.
“These are things larger communities already have,” Beck said. “Now we’re going after it, too.”
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Tipton already is investing in keeping businesses in town. The city offers grants of up to $7,500 for merchants and property owners to restore and preserve downtown buildings. The city also helps business owners or renters expand or remodel commercial or industrial space, Beck explained.
“We’ve snagged a couple of businesses,” she said.
RPM Revival, an automotive restoration business, got $5,000 to expand and renovate, Beck said. Roth Electric, an electrical contractor, bought a new building with city support.
The community still is working on fundraising to preserve the Hardacre Theater, which first opened in 1916 as an opera house and shortly after became a movie theater. It has been closed since 2013.
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