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Many attend Iowa City flood forum

BY MICHELLE MCCONNAUGHEY | MARCH 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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Some Iowa City residents said Thursday they’re not getting enough information about the city’s major flood-mitigation project.

City officials held a public meeting Thursday to gauge public opinion about the $32 million Iowa City Gateway Project, which will likely involve raising the Park Road bridge and a section of North Dubuque Street.

But many of the more than 100 people in attendance said they are “annoyed” with the lack of information and “uninformed” about the project’s details. But city officials said they’re telling the public as much as possible and want to keep them informed, even though it’s still early in the planning process.

Iowa City resident Joellen Shoemaker said she didn’t understand why officials couldn’t give residents more information about the project.

Shoemaker was affected by both the 1993 and 2008 floods, which devastated much of Iowa, and said she wanted to know why this wasn’t addressed in 1993. Most of all, though, she said, she was angry because no one would answer her questions at the presentation.

“Raising the bridge will help,” she said. “But it won’t fix everything.”

Melissa Clow, a special-projects administrator for Iowa City, said officials are only two months into an 18-month planning process. At this point, she said, there isn’t much more to tell.

“I’ve received a lot of good reactions from the public,” she said. “There are some, though, that feel the money could be spent better elsewhere.”

The funding, which comes from both local and federal sources, will address the most devastating recurring flood problems.

In 2008, the Park Road bridge accumulated 14 inches of backwater that caused problems as far upstream as Coralville, said the Rick Fosse, the city public-works director. It’s a risk officials can’t take again, he said. In 1993, flooding closed North Dubuque Street for 54 days, and in 2008, it was closed for a month.

But on Thursday, residents were more concerned about detours and traffic if parts of the street were closed for two construction seasons. They also said they are worried about how the change would affect driveways on Dubuque Street.

Despite those concerns, officials said, the project would be worth it. Though the city has been considering the idea for more than a year, officials began the planning phase two months ago. Construction is slated to start in 2014; the project should be completed by 2016.

Clow said part of the planning process is making sure this is the best plan for the city and getting reactions from residents.

The disgruntled attendees were not able to ask questions during the presentation; they wrote their thoughts on large pieces of paper posted on the walls.

After hearing the concerns, Clow said, officials would take everything into consideration and they still have time to make changes.

But many residents, such as Karen Fox, wanted more details on the proposed plans. Right now, she said she’s not convinced.

“If there’s low-level flooding, this will help, but otherwise, it won’t help enough,” she said.


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