The Daily Iowan

Iowa City moves forward with Gateway Project

DANIEL SEIDL

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Iowa City officials are ready to take an important step toward improving flood protection by starting the final design process for the Gateway Project.

Iowa City staff held a pre-design public input meeting for the project Tuesday evening. The main purpose of the meeting was to take recommendations from the public for design parameters for the project. Some of the suggestions that came up included traffic speed, lane width, and sidewalks.

“I think if they will follow my recommendation, this will be a substantial improvement to access along North Dubuque Street,” said Joe Coulter, the owner of the Jacobsen-Coulter House. “[It will] provide better safety and make a new, aesthetically pleasant entryway into Iowa City.”

The project, which has been in the works since the 2008 flood, will raise a portion of Dubuque Street and rebuild the Park Road bridge to increase flood protection in the area.

In January, the Iowa City Council specified the final design parameters for the project, which set the height for the street at 100-year plus 1 foot and the height of the bridge at 200-year plus one foot. The bridge will have a through-arch design.

The next step for the roughly $40 million project is the design process, which will last around 12 to 18 months, HNTB Corp. project manager Mark Pierson said. After design, construction will begin, and it will last roughly two years. This puts the project at completion around 2017-2018.

Originally, the height recommended by city staff for the council’s consideration was 500-year plus one for both the street and bridge height, which would have provided slightly more protection with a larger environmental footprint.

Though this isn’t exactly what they had originally recommended, Pierson said this height will provide significantly more flood protection.

“Dubuque Street has been closed for about 150 days due to flooding,” he said.  “[If raised to this level], it would’ve been closed about six or seven days. The council thought that would be a good compromise.”

Some members of the public at the meeting felt the chosen height was too low, and the protection afforded by the 500-year height would’ve been worth the extra cost, both financially and environmentally.

“It hurts us every time it floods,” said Amy Pretorius, project manager of the Peninsula Development Co. “[If] you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.”

Height wasn’t the only recommendation Iowa City residents had about the project. Environmental impact is also very important to some.

City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said the speed on the road is important.

“The design speed is what is most crucial,” he said. “I’m interested to hear what the public thinks.”

A lower speed would allow for thinner lanes, which could reduce environmental impact, Throgmorton said.

One local resident agreed.

“It’s a flood-control project, so I’m looking for a design that minimizes wetland loss,” North Side resident Julie Myers said. “Lower speed is definitely something I want.”

Coulter’s concerns about the project were also related to the footprint, because he owns property along Dubuque Street.

“There’s major impact on my property,” he said. “They’re going to build a 15-foot wall right directly in front of my house.”

Coulter made many recommendations to the city, including eliminating a proposed sidewalk and a proposed retaining wall and shifting the street to the west.

After this meeting, city officials will take the input into consideration and make some changes to the design, said Gateway project manager Melissa Clow.

“We do the best that we can to reach a middle ground,” she said.

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