116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One of the largest infrastructure projects being planned in the Cedar Rapids metro area could receive about half of its funding through a federal grant.
The Tower Terrace Road project, which will span 8.3 miles once complete, aims to connect Interstate 380 on the west to Highway 13 on the east. The Iowa Department of Transportation currently is planning for and preparing to construct a new interchange on I-380 at Tower Terrace. One it’s complete, the corridor will run through Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Robins, a portion of unincorporated Linn County and Marion.
Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization Regional Transportation Planner Elizabeth Darnall said that providing another connection across the region is important for all types of transportation, not just cars.
“It’s for bikes and pedestrians as well,” she said. “Having another east-west corridor to get people from 380 through the metro to Highway 13 and providing a chance to fill in some of the undeveloped areas along the way is really important.”
Tower Terrace Road across the metro
The total length of the completed Tower Terrace Road is approximately 8.3 miles. Of the 8.3 miles, approximately 4.6 miles has already been constructed or is currently being designed with planned construction happening within the next two years. The road will be another corridor connecting I-380 and Highway 13 through Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Robins and Marion.
Source: Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization
The completion of Tower Terrace Road has been planned since the 1960s, according to subdivision plats.
Darnall said the organization should find out this spring whether it will receive a $25 million federal grant to go toward the remaining $51.4 million project.
The project cost does not include the Iowa DOT’s interstate interchange project — that’s another $22 million.
The RAISE grant program, formerly known as BUILD and TIGER, is a highly-competitive U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Of 9,700 applicants, only 680 projects will receive funding, with the maximum amount being $25 million.
In April, Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson also listed the Tower Terrace project as one of her 10 Community Project Funding submissions, which allows federal funds to be directed toward a state, locality or nonprofit in a Congress member’s district through the appropriations process.
Hinson originally requested $1 million for the project back in April, but has since upped the request to $5 million after seeing other applications were requested for as much, Darnall said.
Darnall said receiving both the RAISE grant and the Community Project Funding could accelerate the project’s progress.
Right now, the project is estimated to be complete in 2045 with the current funding. If the grant is received, the project could be finished in about a decade instead, Darnall said.
“If we were able to get $25 million, that’s almost half of the remaining costs,” she said. “It could maybe be done in 10 years. It really depends on the funding we’re able to secure.”
Work on the interchange has already started. The new interchange will be a diverging-diamond design. Traffic engineers say the design is safer than a traditional ramp because it reduces the times vehicles cross paths and nearly eliminates left-turn crashes, though it can take drivers a while to get accustomed to the changed traffic patterns.
Iowa DOT Engineer Shane Neuhaus said crews began working on shoulder strengthening Sept. 26 and will begin on grading the project this fall.
“The contractor plans to work on the piers in the median this winter,” Neuhaus said. “If settlement is complete, the contractor plans to work on the bridge abutments during the winter also.”
Beginning in April, work will start on the Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha Tower Terrace Road reconstruction projects tied to the interchange. The interchange project is expected to be complete in fall 2022, Neuhaus said.
Cedar Rapids has two Tower Terrace projects currently in the works and will work with Marion on a chunk of the project in 2022.
The two cities will work together to complete a phase of Tower Terrace east of Meadowknolls Road to Alburnett Road. Marion City Engineer Mike Barkalow said property has been acquired for the next phase and the project was bid Sept. 21. That phase of the project won’t start until April 4 and is scheduled for 240 working days.
Cedar Rapids Capital Improvement Program Manager Tim Mroch said the project with Marion will complete grading and drainage improvements between Meadowknolls and Alburnett roads, however the actual street paving of the roads won’t begin until 2023.
Cedar Rapids also will reconstruct Tower Terrace from Miller Road to the new I-380 interchange, Mroch said. He said that the project should be completed by 2023.
Overall, Darnall said one of the most important aspects of the regional project is the cooperation between all the jurisdictions.
“You can say you are cooperating but it’s another thing to actually be doing and here, everyone honestly is,” she said. “Everyone is working hard to make this happen.”
Hiawatha City Manager Kim Downs previously told The Gazette the importance of the metro communities working together in sync on the project.
“It’s a big goal,” she said of the project. “For this to happen, it has to be all the communities working together. That’s the big-picture, holistic approach to this.”
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