On June 12, 2018, the Iowa Transport Commission will decide whether a proposed five-year plan to spend $3.4 billion on highway construction moves forward. This proposal comes after several years of working to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges on state highways. From 2006 to 2017, the amount of defective bridges went from 256 to 51, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. A continued focus on improving Iowa roadways has lead to the 2019-2023 fiscal year plan.
Iowa Transportation Improvement Program
In May, the Iowa Department of Transportation came out with their proposal for 2019-2023. This five-year agenda outlined plans to not only repair faulty roadways, but to also invest in railroads, trails, aviation, and more. The idea is to modernize transportation services to make them safer for the public. Over half of the proposed $3.4 billion would be earmarked for improving the existing Iowa highways. Additionally, the plan would set aside over half of the budget to focus on rural Iowa roads.
2015 Fuel Tax Led to Projects
This proposal would use 100% of the revenue generated by a state fuel tax increase that began in 2015. Prioritizing funding for infrastructure projects like this was the goal when the tax was introduced and it’s what the Iowa DOT is counting on to complete the proposed projects.
Iowa Interstate Projects
According to Stuart Anderson, the director of the Iowa DOT’s Planning, Programming, and Modal Division, the plan would also focus quite a bit on western Iowa interstate projects. For instance, the state is currently working on reconstructing interstate systems in the Council Bluffs and Sioux City areas. The interstate system in Council Bluffs, alone, carries up to 75,000 vehicles each day. Construction is taking place now to allow those roadways to withstand increased traffic.
On the eastern side of the state, the I-74 Mississippi River Bridge project is well underway. According to Danielle Mulholland, the bridge’s project manager at the Iowa DOT, has said that 45% of traffic through the Quad Cities travel over the bridge. Construction on the bridge has been a tandem project between Iowa and Illinois transportation departments.
Smaller Highway Projects
There will also be a focus on highway projects, if the proposal moves forward. The plan outlines construction on US 64 to Iowa 21 in Waterloo, Highway 30 in Nevada, and more. While larger interstate projects are mentioned, these highways are in need of upgrading and improvement as well, and safety issues would be addressed.
Supporting the Economy
Ensuring roadways are safe isn’t the only objective of this five-year highway improvement plan. Anderson has said that the program would also provide a boost to the economy, providing several opportunities for construction and equipment companies. He said that the proposal “continues to reflect the Iowa Transportation Commission’s commitment to investing in projects that support Iowa’s economy and provide safe mobility of getting you there safely, efficiently, and conveniently.”
Federal Funding for Highway Projects
Something to keep in mind is that in 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act was signed into law. The five-year bill is currently generating funds by implementing changes to passport rules, through privatized tax collection, and Federal Reserve Bank dividends. This means funding of $305 billion doesn’t have to come from increased transportation user fees. Because FAST will expire on September 30, 2020, there’s uncertainty about whether the federal funding will be available afterward for highway projects.
More Info from the Iowa Department of Transportation
Learn more about the draft Fiscal Year 2019-2023 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program here. The scheduled date for consideration is June 12th in Des Moines.