By Brian SipeFollow @briansoipe and @WSJ_BILD on TwitterThe Iowa Department of Transportation and the state’s two largest transportation agencies are scrambling to determine whether an upcoming $3 billion road widening project will lead to more accidents.
The state will spend $150 million to install new lanes on Interstate 25 north of Des Moines to connect the lanes to Interstate 80 south, and the two agencies are trying to identify whether the changes will lead more accidents and whether they will lead motorists to avoid the lanes altogether.
It will also determine whether the state is adequately preparing to accommodate a traffic flow that could increase traffic and create additional congestion on I-25, which is already congested by traffic from the planned I-70 and I-80 widening projects.
The I-75 project, which will create a bypass through Iowa, was originally planned to open by 2021.
The new lanes are expected to open in 2021.
Iowa Department of Public Safety spokesman David Miller said the agency is trying to make sure the state does not make an unsafe situation worse by changing the traffic pattern, and by making adjustments to traffic flow, such as changing the speed limit.
“We are working to ensure the best safety for the motorists,” Miller said.
“The safety of Iowa motorists is a top priority, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that.”
The IWAA and the Iowa Department to Transportation, which oversees the highway, are in the middle of a $3.6 billion construction project.
The state is funding a $300 million expansion of I-95, a $100 million expansion to I-435, a new bridge over the I-71/Iowa River and a $50 million extension of Interstate 40, which runs through the state.
State transportation officials said they will need to examine all of the traffic patterns and traffic data to determine if there is an increase in traffic.
“They are looking at the impacts of traffic on the state highway system, the state bridge system and the I40 bridge system, and what are the implications of this,” said Bill O’Brien, a senior vice president with the IWAB.
The Iowa DOT has asked state transportation officials to analyze the projected impacts of the new lanes to determine what changes to the highway will make.
“It’s all about safety and making sure we have the appropriate traffic control, including speed limits,” said Dave Reiss, a spokesman for the state DOT.
The proposed $300-million bridge is expected to cost about $1.3 billion.
The $1 billion highway project has been delayed since the IOWA legislature delayed a $5.8 billion highway bill last year.
The Senate approved $1 million for the Iowa highway project last year, but the bill never became law.
The $5 billion highway will be funded through an expansion of Iowa’s highway program, which includes a toll and fee system and an expansion to a toll lane in Iowa.
State Rep. Mike Phelan, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the IWWA’s lawsuit is a good thing.
“I think it’s great that the IAWA is stepping up to support our infrastructure projects,” Pheland said.
“If we can get the lanes built, it will save a lot of lives.
It will be a huge help for Iowa.”
State transportation spokesman David Dolan said the state can do everything it needs to ensure safety in Iowa’s roads and bridges.
“Our roads and highways are safe, and our roads and streets are safe for all Iowaans,” Dolan wrote in an email.
“I am very confident in the state and the people of Iowa that they will continue to work together to achieve our goals for a safe, prosperous and thriving state of Iowa.”
The new lanes will also be installed along I-90, which also will be widened, the IEWA said in a news release.
The two agencies also plan to spend $1-million to expand I-45 to include a second lane on the northbound side, and $100,000 to expand Interstate 5, which links the two states, to accommodate the widening project.
The project will cost about half a billion dollars.