Guest Columnist

Time to collectively focus on Tower Terrace interchange

The Tower Terrace Road bridge over Interstate 380 is shown in an aerial photograph in Hiawatha on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The Tower Terrace Road bridge over Interstate 380 is shown in an aerial photograph in Hiawatha on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Linn County’s growing population has two regionally significant transportation projects that are being built or slated for construction in the next five years: Highway 100 and Tower Terrace Road.

The Highway 100 extension project will be a transportation beltway from east to west of the Cedar Rapids metro area to Highway 30 and will be completed next year.

The proposed Tower Terrace Road Interstate 380 interchange and the Tower Terrace Road east-west thoroughfare through Cedar Rapids, Robins, Hiawatha and Marion finally is coming together due to the hard work and cooperation of local and state leaders. The Tower Terrace Road interchange now has made it in the state’s five-year funding plan for fiscal 2018-2022. This is a major accomplishment providing a catalyst for all the affected communities to plan the completion of their portions of the Tower Terrace Road arterial roadway.

The communities of Marion, Hiawatha, Robins and Cedar Rapids now are busy with their individual stretches of the road, either building them out or planning for their eventual construction. Local leaders, engineering and planning staff, and Iowa Department of Transportation officials now have come together to work on the details and timelines of forging the individual segments together into a regionally significant thoroughfare that will carry residents and commerce to their destinations in the northern metro area.

The importance of the Tower Terrace interchange and the completion of Tower Terrace Road from I-380 to Highway 13 cannot be overstated. Linn County is growing, and the fastest-growing areas of the metro area are in northern Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Robins and Marion.

Marion in particular is experiencing a population building boom. Traffic on Collins, Blairs Ferry and Boyson roads is very congestive and at capacity during key times of the day. The Boyson Road exit from the interstate has become unsafe during rush hour, with more than 8,000 vehicles using the northbound exit, backing up onto the interstate and clogging the intersection at Boyson and Center Point roads with more than 16,000 vehicles going east or west in an area smaller than the size of a baseball field.

The Tower Terrace project addresses issues of traffic safety, congestion, economic development and provision of a better arterial for residential commuting.

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Tower Terrace is a must-do project that requires all local leaders and communities to pull together and sing from the same song sheet during these next critical construction and planning years.

While the Highway 100 project now is being completed, its history was plagued with local infighting and missed opportunities, which led to the project being de-prioritized by the Iowa DOT and delayed well beyond when it could have been completed.

Linn County and the metro area communities cannot afford a repeat of those mistakes. Now is the time for us to collectively focus on the needed outcome of a new Tower Terrace interchange and roadway to carry traffic through the northern metro area.

Thankfully, leaders from all the jurisdictions have learned valuable lessons from the Highway 100 planning and construction experience, and have come together as a region to push for the completion of the Tower Terrace Road and interchange project, which will benefit all of our communities tremendously in the years to come.

When local governments forge working partnerships, communicate effectively and establish a shared strategic goal, great things can and do get accomplished. The vitally important Tower Terrace regional project can be our next great infrastructure success if we keep our shared focus on the road ahead.

• Brent Oleson is a Linn County supervisor from Marion serving on the Tower Terrace Advisory Committee and the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization.

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