NORTH LIBERTY– Another large donation has been dropped in North Liberty’s bucket.
At its May 23 meeting, the Urbanized Area Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County (MPOJC) voted to funnel another $735,000 to North Liberty for improving Highway 965.
When the extensive improvement project for Highway 965 through North Liberty was proposed in 2007, some residents were concerned about its $30 million price tag. In that time of stimulation funding from the federal government, city staff and government officials countered that financial assistance from federal and state programs would help offset costs for the seven-phase, multi-year project.
Since then, the overall project was scaled back, phases were rearranged and outside funding not as forthcoming due to the country’s economic downturn.
However, while slow in coming, at least some of the hoped-for financial aid has trickled in over the last several years. Before the project began, the city secured $285,000 in stimulus funding for signalization of the Cherry Street intersection, received another $274,000 in state transportation funds for the realignment of Fairview and Golf View lanes in 2009, and got $1.25 million last July from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Program (STP), funds also distributed through the approval of MPOJC’s Urbanized Area Policy Board.
Last year’s allocation and this recent windfall will both to be used to upgrade the highway up to its intersection with Scales Bend Road.
North Liberty City Council member Gerry Kuhl sits on the MPOJC’s Urbanized Area Policy Board, a representative group of elected officials from Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin, University Heights, the Iowa City Community School District, the University of Iowa and Johnson County.
“This funding will go a long way to completing the entire Highway 965 project, and we anticipate more grant application in future years,” said Kuhl. “We have tried for several years to make the broader community aware of the severe need to improve this road as quickly as possible. We are happy about it.”
Regional MPOs are tasked with apportioning Surface Transportation Projects (STP) funds, as well as Transportation Enhancement Funds, that come from the federal government to state transportation departments. The MPOJC uses a set of scoring criteria to rank STP applications, looking at each project’s impact on safety, compatibility with its community’s comprehensive plan, ability to facilitate multiple modes of transportation, reduction of travel time and the project’s reach over more than one MPO jurisdiction. Also considered is the match for funding each project is expected to receive from the local government.
For fiscal year’s 2016 STP funding allocation of $3.75 million, the MPOJC received six applications from four local entities: Coralville, for a widening project on Coral Ridge Avenue that would also add a pedestrian trail and underpass; Iowa City, to reconstruct and elevate Dubuque Street and Park Road Bridge; Tiffin, to reconstruct both Robert’s Ferry Road and Ireland Avenue; and North Liberty, for both a widening of Penn Street from the I-380 interchange and also the Highway 965 improvements from Penn to 230th Street. The cost for North Liberty’s second project totaled $4.7 million, of which the city pledged to match 60.1 percent, or $2,824,700.
According to City Engineer Kevin Trom, the project will include a completely reconstructed, five-lane section north from Penn Street to Pacha Parkway, three lanes to 240th street, and two lanes to 230th. The 240th Street intersection will be reconfigured and leveled, and there will be turn lanes at that intersection from both directions. Also, the stretch from Penn to Cherry will be finished off to five lanes, and minor spot improvements will be made on the rest of the roadway to increase visibility, Trom said.
The Urbanized Area Policy Board voted for North Liberty to receive $734,210 for its Highway 965 project, just short of the city’s request for $750,300.
The board also approved $1 million to Coralville and $2 million to Iowa City.
Tiffin’s projects received no funding.