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Five road construction projects identified for delay

Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 11:41 a.m. CST

(MCT) — Five road construction projects have been identified for delay due to the potential loss of $450 million from Iowa’s transportation budget when the new federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The Iowa Department of Transportation announced planned delays to “lettings” for some of next year’s projects because there is not a federal transportation allocation plan after Oct. 1.

Lettings are when the state awards contracts to complete projects.

The $450 million in federal money pays for about half of Iowa’s annual road plan budget.

Officials believe Congress will eventually adopt a funding plan, even if it is a stop gap measure, but they are still taking precautions. Those were announced Tuesday during an Iowa Transportation Commission meeting.

A $2.4 million road shoulder paving project on U.S. 218 in Black Hawk County, scheduled for letting in July will be delayed until November.

Five lettings for work on U.S. 61 in Louisa County over the next few months will be delayed until at least October.

That project will include grading, paving and wetland mitigation costs more than $16 million.

A $4 million modernization of a westbound rest area in Jasper County is being pushed back from the July letting schedule.

In Scott County, local road connections and traffic signs for Interstate 74 would be pushed off the September letting schedule. That project is estimated at $13.1 million.

Other delays could be possible.

Stuart Anderson, a director with Iowa DOT, said if Congress acts before October, the delay could be mitigated. The construction could still be completed on time without any noticeable impact, he said.

“If Congress acts, it’s possible there’s no impact to the schedule,” Anderson said. “The reason for the action we are initiating now is because there is not a fix to this issue.”

In a separate but related issue, Anderson addressed the reduction and delay of federal reimbursements connected to the Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for highway repairs. Those changes are expected beginning Aug. 1.

Anderson said the changes could costs Iowa $15 million every two weeks.

However, Anderson said the Iowa DOT should be able to bankroll the shortfall so it holds harmless local communities who are expecting the federal dollars, and so there is no interruption to state projects through this construction season.

“This is the simplest way to do it, and it doesn’t add significantly to our administration of the program,” Anderson said.

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©2014 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

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