The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 13, 2014

Building on a dream

By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — LOW MOOR -- Without much to look at, Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich said it can be difficult for others to see what he sees at the Lincolnway Industrial Railpark. Two companies have purchased a handful of acres out of the hundreds available for development. Those projects, which are now under construction, are tucked behind a ridge, south of U.S. 30 and out of view of passing cars.

Following a Wednesday public forum, Vulich believes that vision will become clearer for people.

“The county is trying to be very proactive in trying to build for our future,” he said. “Instead of, ‘we built something, now we need to react to it.’ We’re already seeing if something is built, we know how it affects our community.”

Vulich joined roughly 40 other county leaders at the Low Moor Community Center where attendees took in a study eight months in the making. Led by McClure Engineering Inc., the impact analysis delivered data, maps and recommendations for how best to accommodate Lincoln Way’s development.

Aided by funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation, the study cost local cities roughly $3,000 apiece. The information they received, said Vulich, was invaluable.

The big takeaway was that U.S. 30 will undergo significant changes if the rail park is fully realized. Using DOT statistics and highway traffic cameras, McClure documented the flow and diversity of traffic over the course of the study, which started in July 2013. Engineer Kevin Bailey led the discussion, informing viewers that today about 10,000 vehicles pass through the corridor daily between Clinton city limits and the Low Moor interchange.

Development could increase traffic to 15,000 per day, thus county leaders should consider what road renovations may be necessary.

“With growth occurring in the park itself, we need to take a step backwards and look at the whole corridor,” Bailey said. “Growth and traffic are going to increase -- what improvements need to be made along Highway 30?”

He urged his audience to keep in mind that road revisions will be made as demand increases. Bailey presented no road projects that need to be tackled in the near future.

However, if the park proceeds as anticipated, road upgrades estimate at $3.84 million.

“All of these cost estimates are based on current practices,” Bailey said. “What’s driving this is development. As development occurs along the corridor, you can look at traffic thresholds that are going to trigger the need for these improvements to occur.”

McClure’s presentation included unprecedented road work for the state of Iowa. It contained plans for a “restricted crossover U-turn” (RCUT) intersection. This forces traffic to make right turns when entering the highway; if those drivers wish to turn left, infrastructure allowing U-turns exists up the road.

This revision would take place at the 54th Street intersection. It alone costs roughly $1.075 million.

It appeared to some like a steep price. But Bailey said the alternative is to construct an interchange at $15 million.

Other plans called for new turn lanes, paved roads and wider roads for large vehicles that would be built at the 60th Street, 40th Street and Millcreek Parkway intersections. And a checklist for four rail access improvements totaled $1.867 million in estimates.

It’s very unlikely the costs would all come from local coffers, Bailey said. Cities and the county can apply for RISE grants and DOT funding while utilizing development methods like tax increment financing.

The presentation also contained plans for land that is not owned by any municipality. Vulich said there are no offers to purchase this land yet, but if those portions also wind up within the rail park, it could lead to construction of access roads for companies on the north side of the development.

Meanwhile, McClure showcased non-industrial land that’s anticipated to grow. Bailey pointed to pockets along the corridor that local leaders feel will one day turn into housing, commercial or more industrial growth.

Following the forum, Vulich felt people had a glimpse into the county’s future. There’s little that can be done for now, but it’s good for communities to see what could happen.

“It’s for the future,” he said. “It’s going to be a building process.”