Decision Time Nears for Iowa's State Transportation Plan

Six public informational meetings to explain the long-range transportation plan will begin March 6 in Sioux City. While Iowa DOT says Iowa is "at a major crossroads concerning transportation investments," most comments fielded last year by a Citizen Advisory Commission supported raising the state's fuel tax.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is holding six public informational meetings in March to hear public comments about its Iowa in Motion state transportation plan. The public comment period continues until March 30 and is the last step before plan approval and adoption by the Iowa Transportation Commission, which is expected in May 2012. The plan involves investments to improve safety and addresses a major shortfall in current funding for infrastructure, according to the department.

The two-hour meetings will start at 4:30 p.m. and take place:

  • March 6: Wilbur Aalfs Library, Gleeson Room, 529 Pierce St., Sioux City
  • March 8: North Iowa Area Council of Governments, 525 Sixth St. SW, Mason City
  • March 13: Ames City Hall, Council Chambers, 515 Clark Ave., Ames
  • March 15: Iowa DOT District 4 Office, 2210 E. Seventh St., Atlantic
  • March 20: Iowa DOT District 5 Materials Office, 301 W. Briggs Ave., Fairfield
  • March 22: Hiawatha City Hall, Multipurpose Room, 101 Emmons St., Hiawatha

While Iowa DOT says Iowa is "at a major crossroads concerning transportation investments," 90 percent of the 198 comments fielded last year by a gubernatorially appointed Citizen Advisory Commission supported increasing investments in roads and bridges and almost two-thirds supported raising the state's fuel tax. The council then recommended raising the tax by eight to 10 cents and increasing fees for new vehicle registrations.

Iowa ranks fifth nationally in the number of bridges and 13th in miles of roadway, but it ranks only 38th in population density, according to the 2010 Census.

Traffic on the state's highway continues to increase, and crash statistics have remained relatively steady or declined in most cases, according to the plan. But it says pavement conditions are deteriorating across the system of primary highways, and a 2011 report by Transportation for America found 21.7 percent of Iowa's bridges were structurally deficient –- the third-highest percentage in the country.

One major project already under way involves the I-74 corridor and construction of a new I-74 bridge crossing the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois. The bridge will replace two separate spans -- the northbound span that was opened in 1935 and the southbound bridge that was opened in 1960. There were 77 accidents in 2007 on those Mississippi River bridges, according to the department, which said the narrow width of the bridges means that accidents "cause severe bottlenecks and result in inconsistent travel times through the corridor."

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