Officials Want to Expand I-380 to Six Lanes from I-80 to Cedar Rapids

By Rick Smith, 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 Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said City Hall will begin to mount a case with state officials to expand Interstate 380 to six lanes from Interstate 80 north to Cedar Rapids’ southern edge.

"We’re going to start pushing 380 to add an extra lane," Corbett said this week. "If we don’t start pushing for it, it won’t get built. We got to start elevating the need within the community, but also within the Department of Transportation."

Cedar Rapids city officials, he said, will continue to ask the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad to increase the state fuel tax so more money is available for infrastructure projects like the widening of Interstate 380.

At the same time, he said he did not anticipate the Legislature to take on the fuel tax until 2015 or 2016.

Corbett said the DOT has hundreds of proposed projects, but the key is to get the I-380 lane expansion between Coralville and Cedar Rapids moved up the project priority list.

"The DOT talks about a lot of projects, but we’ve continued to see the traffic count go up on Interstate 380 as the population has grown," the mayor said. "It’s not going to slow down. The region is in a great position for growth. And there’s going to be continued transportation challenges in the future."

Corbett said these challenges prompted Cedar Rapids elected officials and community leaders to push for the extension of Highway 100 from Edgewood Road NE west and south to Highway 30, a long-delayed, $200-million project on which construction begins this year.
"Now putting three lanes (in each direction) on Interstate 380 (south of Cedar Rapids) is important," he said.

Cathy Cutler, planner in the DOT’s Cedar Rapids district office, on Tuesday said that the DOT completed a study a year ago on the I-380 corridor south of Wright Brothers Boulevard SW south to I-80, a study which concluded that an expansion in the 11-mile stretch from four to six lanes would be needed by 2020 because of predicted traffic growth. This portion of I-380 opened in 1973, she said.

However, Cutler said the Iowa Transportation Commission prioritizes road projects, and the state commission had not programmed any funds for an environmental study, which is the first step of such a project, or for pre-construction design work, she said.

The year-old DOT study concluded that it would be more advantageous to add a lane to the inside in each direction to I-380 south of Cedar Rapids and not to the outside of the existing four-lane, Cutler said.

The DOT study includes a graphic that shows when the level of service for traffic reaches a congested grade of C or worse along certain stretches of the I-380 corridor between Wright Brothers Boulevard SW in Cedar Rapids and I-80.

The study shows that the congested grade of C or worse currently existed in 2012 in southbound lanes south of the Swisher exit and north of North Liberty during the morning rush hour and in southbound lanes south of Wright Brothers Boulevard SW to north of the Swisher exit during the evening rush hour. The C grade or worse is expected to be reached between 2013 and 2015 in both directions south of Wright Brothers Boulevard SW and north of Swisher during the morning rush hour and in both directions north of North Liberty and south of the Swisher exit and in the northbound lanes between I-80 south of North Liberty during the evening rush hour.

The worst stretches of I-380 south of Cedar Rapids now carry about 48,500 vehicles a day over four lanes compared to I-380 from Eighth Avenue SW to H Avenue NE, which carries 86,300 vehicles a day over six lanes, Cutler said.

John Yapp, executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County, on Tuesday said that he and the organization are aware of the DOT's I-380 study, but the MPO has not taken a position on it.

Linn County Engineer Steve Gannon on Tuesday said that he has been included in the DOT’s discussions about I-380 both south of Cedar Rapids and north of Cedar Rapids.

"A 6-lane is inevitable," Gannon said, both from I-80 north to Cedar Rapids and on the north side of the metro area from Boyson Road to County Home Road.

Gannon said the construction of the Highway 100 extension from Edgewood Road NE west and south to Highway 30, which is expected to be complete by 2020, will provide some relief for traffic congestion on I-380. But he said additional lanes on I-380 is the "better solution."
Cedar Rapids' Corbett pointed to the improved traffic flow on I-80 through Coralville and Iowa City since the highway there was expanded to six lanes.

"The same can be said for traffic between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. It needs six lanes, too," the mayor said.

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