Metropolitan Planning Briefing — July 2022
In this Briefing you’ll find updates on the 2022 MPO Annual Report, grant awards, the new economic development district, the transload facility, and water trails
ANNUAL REPORT: ‘MPO as investor, financial planner’
The MPO today published its FY2022 Annual Report, highlighting its accomplishments of the past year and demonstrating its value to its member governments and the region at large.
“We like to think of the MPO as a kind of investor and financial planner whose focus is on bettering the future of Greater Des Moines,” write MPO Chair Bob Andeweg and CEO Todd Ashby.
The report highlights not only the MPO’s direct investments in transportation projects and the grants it has secured for regionally significant projects; additionally, the report focuses on staff preparations to position its members to leverage future funding opportunities.
MPO GRANTS: $16.5 million awarded to 13 metro projects
The annual allocation of federal funding by the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) this year included $16.5 million split among 13 projects.
The grants went to a variety of projects. Some will address system capacity, such as pavement reconstruction in Grimes and West Des Moines, a street widening in Ankeny, and an interstate interchange in Clive. Others improve existing infrastructure, with major road reconstruction projects in Altoona, Des Moines, Polk County, and Windsor Heights, as well as bridge improvements in Des Moines and Polk County.
The funding also supports multimodal transportation options, including new buses for the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART), as well as trail improvements in Ankeny, Des Moines, Polk County, and West Des Moines. A complete listing of funded projects is included below.
The grants are available through the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) and the Surface Transportation Block Grant Set-Aside Program (STBG – Set Aside), which are funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and administered by the Des Moines Area MPO. The grant money becomes available for these projects in October 2025.
NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT: MIPA has launched
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff at the MPO recognized a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the region – the establishment of an Economic Development District (EDD).
Central Iowa had been the only region in the state without an EDD designation from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and it had been missing out on funding as a result. The region usually didn’t qualify for the designation, but the pandemic disaster declaration provided a rare window of opportunity.
Now, two years later, the new EDD is a reality. MPO staff created a new organization, the Mid-Iowa Planning Alliance for Community Development (MIPA), which will serve member governments in Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Marion, Polk, Story and Warren Counties. As of this writing, MIPA’s membership had reached 56 jurisdictions (of the 96 eligible). Collectively, the members represent more than 94 percent of the region’s population.
MIPA’s primary role will be grant-seeking, grant-writing, and grant administration on behalf of its members. Additional services are available, as well. MIPA has a dedicated staff person, Senior Planner Caleb Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-334-0075). Feel free to reach out to him and schedule an introductory meeting.
Additional information is at www.midiowaplanning.org.
TRANSLOAD FACILITY: Open for business
Finally. The Des Moines Transload Facility is open for business, fully operational, and beginning to deliver on the long-awaited economic benefits.
Followers of the MPO know that a transload facility has been “on the horizon” for many years. With dogged persistence the staff here have steered the project through many twists and turns to finally arrive at the finish line with our private-sector partner, Des Moines Industrial. Notably, the MPO staff recently closed out the $11.7 million Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant that they had secured for the project, credited as the catalyst making the project possible.
The transload facility, located on a 40-acre site at 200 SE 15th Street in Des Moines, enables the transfer of industrial goods – such as lumber, rock, salt, food products, etc. – between truck and train, or vice versa. In essence, the transload facility connects the regional interstate shipping routes to the national network of railroads, thereby lowering shipping costs for inbound and outbound goods and products.
WATER TRAILS: Bidding planned for revised scope
In fall of 2019 the MPO landed a long-shot $25 million BUILD grant for a collection of water trails projects, most visibly the mitigation of the Scott Avenue Dam at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, along with three access points upstream and downstream.
Two and a half years later, the MPO is preparing to go out for bid for a third time, with a revised scope which includes the Scott Avenue Dam modification and improvements at the Harriet Street access point. The previous bid came in too high, in large part due to rising construction costs. The MPO pivoted, successfully requesting a grant scope change from Office of the Secretary of Transportation while still retaining the full $25 million award.
Construction could begin as early as spring 2023. When complete, the public will benefit from whitewater features and improved fish habitat where once stood a deadly low-head dam under the Scott Avenue bridge, along with shoreline amenities; and an access point to take out downstream near Harriot Street.
The water trails project remains an example of the MPO partnering with private fundraisers, namely the Great Outdoors Fund. This grant was a catalyst that accelerated the overall implementation of the regional water trails plan that was developed by the MPO and adopted in November 2016.
|That’s it for this Briefing. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to reach out to the MPO staff.|