Roughly more than a third of the $3.5 billion intended for Iowa’s transportation within the next five years will be devoted to improving the state’s bridges according to the state’s planners. The 7-member Iowa Transportation Commission approved a 2017-2021 transportation improvement plan that includes expenses in aviation, transit, railroads, trails and highways to modernize transportation services, with an emphasize on enhancing safety.
The $3.5 billion budget will be divided in a few sections. $1.2 billion is slated for investments in Iowa’s state-owned bridges. The plan calls for $1.6 billion in funding towards working on existing infrastructure, including both bridges and highways.
“I would say, over the last several programs, there has been increased emphasis not only on bridges, but also on existing infrastructure,” said Stuart Anderson, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s planning, programming and modal division. “That definitely has been a priority for them.”
The five-year plan also includes a $36.5 million investment in non-interstate bridges for fiscal year 2017. That number increases annually up to $55 million in 2021. The 2015 National Bridge Inventory report, which used Federal Highway Administration data, found that Iowa ranks worst in the nation for the total number of bridges considered deficient, and third worst for the percentage of deficient bridges in a state’s overall inventory.
Of Iowa’s 24,242 bridges, 5,025 of them (21%) are considered structurally deficient, according to the report.
The five-year plan also covers a number of high-profile projects in the corridors that previously had been announced and were expecting approval in the final draft.
High-profile projects include a new Interstate 380 interchange at Forevergreen Road in fast-growing North Liberty; a massive overhaul of the Interstate 380/Interstate 80 interchange; an extension to Highway 100 around Cedar Rapids; and a new Mount Vernon/Lisbon bypass on Highway 30.
According to Anderson, “the state’s 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase — approved in February 2015 — has helped generate added funds for bridge and highway needs.” A mixture of the gas tax proceeds, vehicle registration fees and disbursements from the federal transportation budget pays for the plan. To complete so many projects, the five-year plan is 9 percent larger than the $3.2 billion 2016-2020 plan.
“They’ve been able to not only increase investment in modernization of bridges and pavements, but also they’ve been able to add in some corridor completion projects,” Anderson said.