The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 31, 2013

One major road project completed one left to finish

By Charlene Bielema
Herald Editor

---- — CLINTON — Since the mid-1990s, the city of Clinton has been working with state and federal officials to complete two major road projects — 19th Avenue North, which is entering its final phase, and Liberty Square, which was completed this year — that will affect how traffic moves throughout the city of Clinton for years to come.

The 19th Avenue North extension, once completed next year, is designed to funnel traffic from the Iowa 136 bridge to the Lyons Business and Technology Park while creating an east-west corridor that will complete the loop around Clinton that already consists of Mill Creek Parkway, U.S. 30 and U.S. 67.

The extension will connect Millcreek Parkway to Main Avenue, allowing for future development in the park by opening up an additional 80 acres. Additionally, the extension will provide another access and exit to accommodate the increased traffic that has occurred as a result of the development in the area.

Phases I and II of the project, which are already complete, have connected Mill Creek Parkway to Springdale Drive and extended the road to approximately 1,100 feet west of Randall Court. The third phase, now under way, will connect to the road constructed in Phase II.

Roughly one mile of concrete from North Second Street to the existing dead end of 19th Avenue Northwest will be constructed and reconstructed as part of phase III. The project also will include storm and sanitary sewer improvements, traffic signal improvements and the construction of retaining walls. According to the timeline provided by the Iowa Department of Transportation, construction should start in May 2014 and the project is to wrap up in November 2014.

In recent developments, the city of Clinton accepted a $450,000 Restoring Iowa’s Sound Economy grant to construct 1,100 feet of 19th Avenue North, 880 feet of 10th Street Northwest and a right-turn lane on Main Avenue.

The city will be responsible for the remaining $1.1 million of the $1.55 million project, which it plans to nearly cover using tax increment financing. The tech park is an urban renewal area and the city recently amended the urban renewal agreement, making way for the roadway extension.

“By the council taking the action to approve that urban renewal plan, this is now a project we can request tax increment financing for to fund,” City Administrator Jessica Kinser explained.

A $300,000 shortfall remains, which the city has asked the Clinton County Development Association to cover. This portion of the project would pay for items not eligible under the RISE grant, such as turn lanes on Mill Creek Parkway. If the CCDA couldn’t bankroll the $300,000, the city would scale down the portions not covered by the RISE grant and TIF.

According to Kinser, there won’t be any debt associated with the project.

“We’re looking at the unique ability to have what I estimate to be $800,000 of tax increment financing available in fiscal year 2015 because we have no other obligations in that district. So if we can meet that other $300,000 portion then we’ll be looking at being able to cash flow this in the current year,” Kinser said.

It all means that by this time next year, 19th Avenue North will run through the Lyons Business and Technology Park with the hopes of opening the park for more development.

The other major project, that of Liberty Square, is the redevelopment of a stretch of U.S. 30 and 67 that runs between South Fourth and 14th streets and has included the development of two separate, three-lane, one-way roads, Camanche and Liberty avenues. Officials have said their hope would be the development of several blocks of new commercial properties in between the two roads.

Local leaders worked for years to secure funding to see the $50 million project through to completion, learning in 2005 that a draft five-year plan presented to the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission revealed it was one of five Clinton County projects on the state’s priority list.

At that time, the DOT had already contacted some property owners about acquisition, utilizing a $1 million Liberty Square allocation from 2004. Clinton secured $13.6 million in federal funding for Liberty Square in the federal transportation reauthorization bill passed by Congress at that time as well.

Since the late 2000s, the area has been in the midst of paving and grading projects with property acquisition and demolition beginning before that.

Now, more than a decade later, Liberty Square work has wound down to completion, opening up what was once a blighted area to development that will make the area the grand entrance into Clinton that leaders have imagined for years.

“It is the gateway to the community. Everyone who travels to Clinton, travels through Clinton, will see Liberty Square,” City Engineer Jason Craft told the Clinton Herald.

“This will increase driving efficiency and safety,” he said. “Anytime you have a parallel one-way system where traffic only go the area should not be congested, ever. Not to mention it will be a smooth driving surface.”

The project also resolves some drainage issues that plagued the former Camanche Avenue because of how flat the road was and the combined sewer system.

Of the $50 million cost, Liberty Avenue cost $15 million with $3.5 million coming from the city and the remainder coming from the federal government and state.Camanche Avenue also cost $15 million, with the city pitching in $2.5 million and the state and federal governments paying the remaining $12.5 million.

Another $20 million went toward land acquisition. The city owns most of the interior lots between Camanche and Liberty avenues. The city has money set aside to purchase the parcels that are still owned by the state once the state is ready to hand them over, which could take up to a year or longer on the properties west of 13th Avenue South, city officials said in September.