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Metropolitan Planning Organization approves area transportation projects

BY JULIA TRUSZKOWSKI | JULY 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Projecting continued near-future growth throughout Johnson County, area officials are taking the necessary steps now to accommodate additional residents, services, and traffic.

In a Wednesday evening meeting at the North Liberty City Council chamber, 1 Quail Creek Circle, the Metropolitan Planning Organization approved several major transportation projects, that when finished, are expected to provide greater connection between local municipalities.

Full-agenda decisions garnered unanimous approval for the group, composed of officials from Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin, University Heights, the University of Iowa, Johnson County, and the Iowa City School District.

In all, the Burlington Street Median Project, Dubuque Street/I-80 Pedestrian Bridge, as well as expansion of the Clear Creek Trail into further city limits of Coralville and Tiffin moved forward.

The original Burlington Street Median Project, which will bring sweeping pedestrian access across the busy street in the form of additional plantings and a median strip, was originally reserved to Burlington Street itself.

In lining up with the 2012-20 Road Projects list, however, officials extended work to Gilbert Street and Riverside Drive.

Final costs for the project were unavailable as of Wednesday evening.

The second Iowa City project, the Dubuque Street/I-80 Pedestrian Bridge project, was originally set to receive $547,398 in secured funding secured.

But with traffic counts and area population levels on the rise, a total of nearly $1.79 million in aid was granted.

The development of projects in the urban area is driven by increased transit over the years for all transportation systems, leading Johnson County to have the highest bicycle ridership of all Iowa counties, said John Yapp, the executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County.

“Connectivity is a big part of the story,” he said. “As transportation planners, instead of adding capacity, it’s important to increase connectivity and give people more options for what routes they take.”

The seventh phase of the Coralville’s Clear Creek Trail is to be added to the 2012-20 Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects list. It is to receive $621,578 in funding.

The Clear Creek Trail in the town limits of Tiffin is also to be added to the 2012-20 Bicycle and Pedestrians List, receiving $148,922 in funding.

Both a seventh phase leg of the Coralville’s Clear Creek Trail and expansion into the city of Tiffin, as part of the 2012-20 Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects list, received $621,578 and $148,922 in respective funds.

So what about additional projects currently in the construction pipeline not included in the funding provisions?

Assistant Transportation Planner Kris Ackerson said they’re numerous.

Such projects are not limited to the expansion of Lower Muscatine Road into a continuous cross section, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Grade Separation, Highway 965 geometric improvements, and the expansion of the two-lane segments on Coral Ridge Avenue to a four-lane road with additional turn lanes.

Additionally, the city of Iowa City is developing an $880,000 trail project along Foster Road to the fast-developing Peninsula Neighborhood.

And a number of highly traveled streets, including Iowa City’s First Avenue, Scott Boulevard, and the joint Camp Cardinal Boulevard Iowa City-Coralville artery, have been vital in reducing traffic volumes on other streets, Yapp said.

Discussion of additional projects will continue at the next board meeting, set for Sept. 11.

As fast-growing North Liberty nears its 100-year birthday, city officials say they are working hard to tackle traffic volumes and boons in residential construction.

Notable examples, assistant city administrator Tracey Mulcahey said, lie in a $3.4 million North Liberty Library expansion and the 40-acre West Side Park.

“The metropolitan area has done a wonderful job continuing to invest in trails and sidewalks,” Yapp said. “People don’t have to come to downtown Iowa City for their daily needs anymore. They can find facilities closer to their residences.”


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