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SW Arterial might shift from city to state

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Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 1:00 pm | Updated: 6:52 pm, Tue Apr 9, 2013.

CORALVILLE, Iowa — After four decades at the top of Dubuque’s wish list, the Southwest Arterial may wind up on the Iowa Department of Transportation’s to-do list.

But like all things Southwest Arterial, it could take several years.

Assistant City Manager Teri Goodmann presented the Iowa Transportation Commission with a proposal today that would transfer jurisdiction of the Southwest Arterial to the Iowa DOT. In return, the city would accept responsibility for the Northwest Arterial and U.S. 52 through downtown Dubuque. The city will complete bridge construction and road improvements already funded, and continue property acquisition and other pre-construction preparations.

“That’s when we would pass the baton,” Assistant City Engineer Bob Schiesl said. “It has been great to work with the DOT in a very creative way. When we’ve approached the DOT in the past about the Southwest Arterial we were always told that’s your project. We obviously were struggling to come up with the funding.”

Funding has been the major stumbling block for the thoroughfare that would connect U.S. 20, near Seippel Road, to U.S. 151/61/52 south of Dubuque, near Olde Davenport Road. Each year construction is delayed estimated costs rise. The four-lane highway is estimated to cost $135 million in 2013. In 1999 it was estimated at $50 million. If the Iowa DOT assumes control it could build the project into its five-year capital improvement budget.

“We’re hoping there will be some movement on funding at the state level whether it is a gas tax or some other form of funding, so the Department of Transportation would have the money to complete the project,” Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol said. “That right now looks like the best option for the DOT and the city of Dubuque.”

The proposal took shape over the past several months as city and DOT officials hashed out objectives of mutual benefit. The state wants out of the local road business, such as U.S. 52 through downtown Dubuque. The Northwest Arterial is officially a state highway, but mostly carries city traffic.

Goodmann touted the benefits of the Southwest Arterial to Dubuque and the DOT, such as relieving traffic congestion on U.S. 20, which carries between 18,000 and 37,000 vehicles daily. Improved traffic and freight movement, she said, will lead to future development.

“Because of topography, future development must take place to our west and southwest,” Goodmann said.

Iowa 136, which connects Dyersville to Luxemburg, would be redesignated U.S. 52, as will the Southwest Arterial once under state control. U.S. 52 and Iowa 3 north of Dubuque would be redesignated Iowa 3 only.

“The impact to the county is not that great,” said Eric Manternach, chairman of the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors. “We sure support whatever we can to make it happen because it’s also a priority for us.”

The city and DOT will next work on memorandum of understanding and will later develop a memorandum of agreement with additional detail. In recent months, City and East Central Intergovernmental Association staff met with officials from Dubuque County and all seven communities directly affected by the proposal, as well as four communities indirectly affected.

“We have had tremendous support from all of the mayors we have talked to,” Goodmann said. “The Iowa DOT has been looking at jurisdictional transfer of local roads for a statewide project and has not yet found that unanimity of purpose.”

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