I-380 Lane Expansion May be Years Away, But Mayor Says Start Planning Now

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

Traffic passes an electronic Iowa Department of Transportation sign displaying a message against drunk driving on Interstate 380 on Monday, December, 30, 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

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By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Cedar Rapids city leaders may spend the next few years trying to convince the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to add more lanes to I-380 between the I-80 interchange in Johnson County and the southern part of the city.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said a growing volume of traffic on I-380 south of the city should justify the expansion from four lanes to six. A DOT study completed last year found there will be enough traffic to warrant more lanes by the year 2020. That study looked at the portion of I-380 between the airport exit at Wright Brothers Blvd S.W. and the interchange of I-380 and I-80. However, Mayor Corbett would like to see the six lanes go all the way to Highway 30.

Corbett said the city has barely launched the process of pushing for an eventual interstate lane expansion. But he said if the groundwork doesn’t start now, then it may be years before there is the political will, or the resources, to tackle such a project.

The DOT study found the greatest area of congestion, during the morning and evening rush hours, was between the Swisher interchange and I-80. It also concluded the least expensive option for expansion would be to add an extra lane in each direction in the center median of the roadway.

Corbett said while it’s important to start the groundwork now in laying out a case for extra I-380 lanes he doubts there will be any real action until state lawmakers take a serious look at increasing the state’s gasoline tax or find another way to fund major road projects. The mayor doesn’t expect that to happen until after the current election year for state lawmakers.

Several motorists at a convenience store along I-380 sounded enthused at the idea of expanding the interstate from the southern edge of Cedar Rapids to I-80.

Mike Edl, a driver who frequents both I-80 and I-380, said the traffic south of Swisher and Shueyville is getting heavy enough to warrant an expansion. Edl said he was particularly impressed with the expansion of I-80 to six lanes in the Coralville and Iowa City area. That project took almost six years, but he said it’s made a huge improvement in handling traffic. He, for one, believes drivers would put up with the inconvenience of construction on the southern portion of I-380 if an eventual wider road is the result.

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