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Federal funds to aid local flood projects

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | APRIL 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa City is set to receive $25 million in federal funding for several flood-prevention projects, including raising Dubuque Street in front of Mayflower Hall.

City officials will use part of the funding for research and development of a project to elevate the road — which supports roughly 25,000 vehicles daily. It was closed for 32 days during the 2008 flood.

But with a $3 million Economic Development Administration grant from the U.S. Commerce Department, Iowa City will try to prevent the city’s important traffic artery from closing again.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the funding — part of $30 million granted to all of Iowa for flood recovery — with Iowa City officials at the University of Iowa Beckwith Boathouse on April 9.

The project will also raise the Park Road bridge, which acted as a dam when the Iowa River crested, causing avoidable blockage, said Mayor Matt Hayek.

The project will cost $32 million, Hayek said, adding the grant will help significantly.

Iowa City City Councilor Regenia Bailey, who was the Iowa City mayor during the flood, noted the importance of the two roads for residents and emergency-service vehicles — especially during natural disasters.

Iowa City Fire Battalion Chief Jim Humston agreed, recalling that response vehicles had to take alternate routes to get to the north side of Dubuque Street during the flood.

“Clearly, it had an impact on our ability to respond in a timely manner,” Humston said. Raising the bridge would increase accessibility to the area north of Mayflower Hall, he said.

Humston noted raising the road and bridge will not stop high water levels from isolating the residential district off Foster Road near Edgewater Park. That peninsula was cut off by the rising waters and had to be evacuated by members of the National Guard in 2008, Humston said.

Iowa City also garnered a $22 million grant, which will be allocated to rebuild Iowa City’s north wastewater-treatment facility to a new location, next to the south treatment plant. Officials plan to use another $10 million from other federal sources and I-JOBS funding for the project, Hayek said.

“This represents a huge step closer for Iowa City,” he said.

Gov. Chet Culver echoed their sentiments at the announcement late last week.

“We bring a lot of good news today, but we’ve got a long way to go to recovery,” he said.


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