Iowa DOT to take over construction of Dubuque's SW Arterial - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa DOT to take over construction of Dubuque's Southwest Arterial


A major eastern Iowa transportation project nearly 50 years in the making is one step closer to reality.

Friday, Iowa DOT director Paul Trombino and Dubuque mayor Roy Buol signed a memorandum of understanding, officially stating the DOT's intent to take over construction of the Southwest Arterial.

The project's total price tag is an estimated $135 million. Through a few different funding streams, including federal dollars, the city currently has secured $40 million for the Southwest Arterial. The DOT allocated $45 million for the project in its five-year plan. That leaves a $50 million shortfall, which Dubuque assistant city engineer Bob Schiesl said the DOT is responsible for funding, according to the agreement.

"This is a unique agreement between the state and the locals with the jurisdictional transfer, and then us really building a new segment of a roadway: 52, Southwest Arterial. Very unique," Trombino said. "I don't think it's happened before and we're really excited about it."

In exchange, the city will take over maintenance and care for several routes currently under state jurisdiction. The agreement also calls for some other changes. For example, in the near future, US Highway 52 will no longer run through downtown Dubuque.

Kelley Deutmeyer is executive director of the East Central Intergovernmental Agency, one of the leaders of the many Dubuque-area partners involved in the Southwest Arterial's planning.

"The Southwest Arterial will become Highway 52, and then 52 - the designation - will be here on 136 through Dyersville," Deutmeyer said, pointing to a big map of the planned changes.

She said the Southwest Arterial should divert half of the approximately 7,000 trucks that daily travel the portion of Highway 20 closest to the Julien Dubuque bridge.

Officials also anticipate the Southwest Arterial will alleviate traffic woes in residential neighborhoods such as Kelly Lane, which, for years, has been a shortcut commuters take to get from US Highway 20 to US Highways 151 and 61.

That's good news for neighbors along the road, such as Ron and Linda Rusch, who say they're fed up with the traffic.

"It's ridiculous! It's absolutely ridiculous," Ron Rusch said. "I have a fairly narrow driveway, and I try to turn around in the driveway so I can get out in between all these cars, because to back out, I mean, you got to wait three, four or five minutes. You just can't do it."

He said the traffic along Kelly Lane brings with it everything from noise and speeding to litter and wrecked mailboxes.

"It's a nightmare!" he said, adding part of his morning routine is picking up discarded cigarette butts and fast food containers from his front lawn, where drivers throw them.

The Southwest Arterial construction is a project decades in the making, dating back to a city council document from 1965.

"I keep thinking, 'Just don't tell me about it until you're done. When you're all done, then give me a call. Okay?'" Rusch said.

He and other neighbors say they're hopeful the Southwest Arterial will be completed in their lifetime but will believe it when they see it.

City engineers are working on the project's final design phase as the city continues to acquire the property for right-of-way.

The city says the Southwest Arterial will be a 6.1-miles, four-lane divided freeway, which will provide a direct route through southwestern Dubuque. Unlike the Northwest Arterial, city engineers say, this roadway will have no stoplights or at-grade intersections.

Working together on this project are the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, the East Central Intergovernmental Association, Dubuque Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, Dubuque County, the City of Dubuque and, now, the DOT.

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