Multi-year I-80/380 project transforming travel in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor
Whenever you have a large amount of traffic of various vehicle types converging on one spot, there are a unique set of safety concerns. With “Safety First, “People Matter” and “Customer Focused” as three of our Iowa DOT core values, addressing these concerns is a top priority.
The Interstate 80/380 interchange in Iowa City is a major crossroads for the state of Iowa and the rest of the nation. As one of the busiest interchanges in the state, I-80/I-380 is a vital link in the overall connectivity, mobility, freight movement, and economic well-being. A multi-year project now underway includes installing new directional ramps to increase the safety and flow of traffic and replacing the current loop ramps that have seen weaving traffic which created congestion and safety issues.
Traffic in the Iowa City metro area and on to Cedar Rapids has grown and is projected to continue to increase. The existing roads were not able to handle the amount of traffic, causing numerous slowdowns that made commuting through the area unpredictable and created safety concerns at the I-80/380/U.S. 218 interchange. This project was designed to provide a more reliable transportation system where travelers can count on experiencing the same trip time each time that route is taken, which is a target for the Iowa DOT
Jill Jones lives in Cedar Rapids and commutes daily to her job at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She experiences the I-80/380 interchange twice every day and understands well the need for a change. She said, “For those of us who use the interchange regularly, the old configuration was okay because it was familiar. But when you mix in the people who don’t understand the interchange, there was a lot of confusion that led to dangerous situations that often caused backups and delays. I think the new configuration will make it much easier and safer for people to navigate the interchange.”
Steve Berner is the mayor of Tiffin, a community directly west of the interchange. He explained, “Tiffin is mostly a residential city. Many of our residents work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or Amana. Traffic is low in town and people enjoy peace and quiet with easy access to the larger communities. This project will make it even easier for our residents who work in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids.”
While the project has been ongoing in one phase or another since 2017, area towns are working to keep pace and are seeing the benefits of an updated transportation system of their own. In Tiffin, Berner said, “We are doing everything we can in Tiffin to stay ahead of the construction and the growth that comes will inevitably come with that. Already builders can’t build houses fast enough for people who want to move here. Planning city streets and working with the DOT on things like a new roundabout are all exciting projects for us to help grow our city. The updates will also expand access to emergency medical services. With the new infrastructure may come an EMS sub-station to give greater access to all areas of Johnson County and provide storage areas for EMS supplies.”
Kelly Hayworth, the city administrator of Coralville, says his city has experienced its own challenges with the interchange and the reconstruction project. He said, “We share public safety responsibility at the interchange with Tiffin. The tight clover leaf ramps in the old configuration were the site of numerous crashes. These areas were also dangerous for our first responder who worked these crash scenes. The new ramps will relieve these issues and make the area much safer for both travelers and our first responders. When it is complete, the interchange will make travel through the area quicker and more efficient. It will almost fade into the background.”
During construction, Hayworth notes, “The communication on this project has been a big success. There are numerous ways to stay connected to the progress with a website, email alerts, social media, and message boards along the road. “
He also commends the Iowa DOT on a good flow of communication and problem solving between the agency and the city. He said, “Clear Creek runs adjacent to the area, and we had some concerns over the project’s impact on water quality. We worked with the Iowa DOT for improvements to Clear Creek and wetland restoration on city land. The project also includes recreational areas, parks, and trails that people will be able to enjoy safely, even though they are right next to a busy interstate. This project fits well into Coralville’s long-term goals and helped us advance our long-range planes more quickly.”
Once the project is completed, the Iowa DOT and surrounding cities expect to see significantly fewer crashes, which means fewer injuries and fatalities. Over the next 30 years, models predict approximately 64 million fewer hours of traffic delays and the estimated typical trip will be 5-35 percent more likely to arrive on time than was happening prior to the project.
This project is showing how of the work the Iowa DOT is doing is making lives better through transportation for the region, the state, local communities and individuals alike.
To find out much more about this impressive project, go to https://iowadot.gov/i80-i380/