Iowa Transportation Commission approves five year, $3.2 billion record-setting highway plan

I-74 Mississippi River bridge
I-74 Mississippi River bridge | Wikipedia

The Iowa Transportation Commission approved a record five-year $3.2 billion highway spending plan this week that includes replacing the iconic I-74 Mississippi River Bridge in Bettendorf.

Iowa Department of Transportation Commissioner Dan Huber told TI News Daily the funding comes from a 10 cent per gallon gas tax increase that will generate $501 million over the next five years in conjunction with about half of the $3.2 billion price tag coming from the federal government.

“This is a very balanced plan,” Huber said. “It allows us to prioritize our plans and to increase our investment and stewardship to maintain and repair existing roads and bridges while expanding other roads and highways.”

Replacing the I-74 Mississippi River Bridge in Bettendorf that links Iowa to the Illinois Quad City region has long been on the state’s priority list. The northbound lanes opened in 1935 and the southbound lanes opened in 1959. The replacement bridge will have additional lanes, a shoulder, and a bike and walking path.

“The existing lanes are very narrow,” Huber said. “If there is an accident the bridge shuts down. On the Illinois side, the bridge has some significant curvature; overall, it’s in quite poor shape.”

Other plan improvements include $1.1 billion for state-owned bridges, $1.3 billion to modernize and improve safety on the existing highway system, and $364 million for widening highway corridors, including highways 20, 30 and 61.

The plan also continues to support several previously added major projects, made possible by the tax increase, Huber said, including expanding Highway 100 in Linn County, improvements on Interstate 29 in Sioux City, and the interstate system in Council Bluffs.

While many states and cities across the country have given their infrastructure an overall D grade, Huber feels positive about the state’s infrastructure system.

“Four times a year we take state tours of the highway system. Relative to some states I think we’re in pretty good shape, but like many out there there is a seemingly endless list of what we’d like to do,” Huber said.

Federal funding comes from the Highway Trust fund, which was recently extended through July. Huber said if Congress fails to extend the fund past July it will not affect the state’s summer construction projects.

“We budget anticipating flat revenues coming from the feds,” he said. “But we’re cautious, knowing Congress may fail to act. It does make planning difficult.”