WASHINGTON, D.C.– North Liberty officials are meeting with legislators in Washington, D.C. this week to lobby for federal funding.
North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar and Mayor Tom Salm were among the delegation of elected officials and city representatives to meet with federal legislators and their staff as part of the Iowa City Area Chamber’s annual lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.
U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa held a press conference immediately after meeting with representatives from Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty and Johnson County on Monday, Feb. 6. The local delgation presented several transportation and community development projects for which they are seeking federal dollars. Transportation projects dominated North Liberty’s list of talking points for this year’s lobbying trip.
Sen. Grassley said the House of Representatives was expected to pass a five-year transportation bill this week, and that the Senate finance committee would be meeting Tuesday, Feb. 7, to discuss a federal transportation bill.
“I don’t know when it will come up in the Senate, but I presume there will be a bill that comes out of the finance committee tomorrow afternoon,” Grassley said. He offered no details of what was contained in the bill’s current draft.
The federal government’s last long-term transportation bill expired in 2009, and the present extension of transportation authorization is set to expire March 31, but Grassley said he expects Congress to keep transportation aid flowing to states on interim basis as it has in the past.
North Liberty’s number one transportation priority is the completion of the Highway 965 project. The cost of improvements to Highway 965, the heavily-traveled north-south thoroughfare between Coralville and North Liberty, was proposed to be shared between the two cities. The original design for the project outlined a seven-phase, multi-year plan estimated to cost around $30 million. North Liberty scaled back its first two phases when Washington earmarks for transportation projects were eliminated from federal spending bills last year, and when North Liberty business owners along the highway expressed concerns about being assessed for the improvements. So far, turn lanes and traffic signals have been added at the highway’s intersections with Cherry Street and Golf View Drive, which was also realigned to meet Fairview Lane to the west. North Liberty plans to continue making upgrades to the highway, designating $4.6 million in its Capital Improvements Plan as the total amount needed in fiscal year 2013 to finish phase III improvements within North Liberty’s city limits.
Coralville has not committed any funding to the project to date, but the two cities are expected to work together to submit an application to the federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) discretionary grant program. The deadline for final applications are due March 19, 2012, with funds required to be obligated by September 2013. Grassley was unsure of whether or not the TIGER program would be reauthorized for FY2013, or if the program would include a sunset date on future funding.
Assistant City Administrator Tracey Mulcahey said this year’s delegation would seek federal assistance to complete all remaining phases of the highway project, extending from North Liberty to Coralville.
Also on North Liberty’s D.C. agenda for discussion with federal legislators was widening the Penn Street bridge over Interstate 380, and the possibility of adding an interchange on I-380 at Forevergreen Road.
The delegation returns from Washington on Wed., Feb. 8, and will report on the trip to their respective jurisdictions in future meetings.