June 2019

In this briefing we give an overview of a recent workforce housing study, update you on water trails, introduce new staff, and highlight an upcoming speaker.

Transportation is a significant factor in the overall cost of living.

WORKFORCE HOUSING: Transportation is a key ingredient 

The Des Moines Area MPO in April awarded more than $14 million to 18 transportation projects improving Greater Des Moines.

Greater Des Moines can further fuel its economic growth by investing in the right mix of housing options, in locations near jobs, with multiple transportation options.

That is the high-level takeaway from a yearlong analysis of workforce housing in the Greater Des Moines region, which found that the current mix of housing falls short of meeting the needs of current and future workforce. The results were presented by Capital Crossroads Director Nikki Syverson at the June meetings of the MPO Technical and Policy Committees.

To learn more you can read the announcement, see the presentation to the MPO, or dive into the full report.

The MPO joined the Polk County Housing Trust Fund and the Cities of Des Moines, Ankeny, Clive, Norwalk, Urbandale and West Des Moines on the team that analyzed the data and engage local stakeholders for the study. The process was guided by researchers at the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech.

The water trails plan will activate 150 miles of rivers and creeks in the region.


The Policy Committee in June took two actions to advance the implementation of Central Iowa Water Trails.

First, the Policy Committee voted to approve $550,000 to support the preliminary engineering and pre-permitting work for the three dam mitigations projects, which are essential to creating the centerpiece of the regional water trails network. The funding comes from unallocated Surface Transportation Block Grant funds, and it was requested to show regional public support for the project. Private fundraising is in its earliest stages, and has already raised approximately $3.5 million. The preliminary engineering and pre-permitting process can begin once fundraising reaches $5 million.

Second, the Policy Committee authorized MPO staff to submit a BUILD grant application for $25 million for the water trails initiative. Staff have confirmed that the water trails project is not only an eligible activity, but also stands to perform well on the primary criteria on which grants are judged – safety, state of good repair, economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and quality of life.

Started at the MPO, the water trails initiative has grown into a top regional priority that is being implemented by a robust public-private partnership, operating as the Capital Crossroads Central Iowa Water Trails Incubator that was announced in May.

NEW STAFF: Welcome Zhi Chen and Aspen Pflanz

The Des Moines Area MPO recently welcomed Zhi Chen as an associate planner and Aspen Pflanz as an intern.

MPO Associate Planner Zhi Chen

MPO Associate Planner Zhi Chen works on the Iowa Data Bike project, data collection and analyses, GIS programs, travel demand modeling, performance measures and reports, and land-use scenario planning models. He can be reached at or 515-334-0075.

MPO Intern Aspen Pflanz

MPO Intern Aspen Pflanz is a graduate student at Iowa State University in the Department of Community and Regional Planning. At the MPO, she is gathering data, finalizing reports, editing maps and more. She can be reached at or 515-334-0075.

Speaker Katharine Burgess of the Urban Land Institute

NEXT SPEAKER: Katharine Burgess: Harvesting the Value of Water

Next up in the Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series is Katharine Burgess of the Urban Land Institute. As the Vice President of Urban Resilience, she leads research and advisory services related to urban resilience. She was the primary author of Harvesting the Value of Water: Stormwater, Green Infrastructure and Real Estate.