On Tuesday, at their meeting in Ames, the Iowa Transportation Commission approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program (Program) that will add several new highway and bridge construction projects to the program in FY 2015. According to the Iowa Transportation Commission, this amendment is possible due to the legislative passage of Senate File 257 and signed by Governor Branstad on February 25 which raised Iowa’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon effective March 1.
The amendment adds highway and bridge projects with an estimated cost of $33.2 million. The $33.2 million represents 100 percent of the additional road funding for state highway projects expected to be generated in FY 2015. The projects include two non-interstate bridge modernization projects; four interstate construction projects; one safety project; and two non-interstate pavement modernization projects, one of which is a statewide project that will address spot locations across Iowa that have immediate needs for rehabilitation.
The amendment also includes funding to purchase right of way for one new non-interstate capacity/system enhancement project. The addition of funding to purchase right of way for the improvement of U.S. 20 from Correctionville to the west junction of U.S. 59 will permit accelerated development of remaining sections of the U.S. 20 corridor in western Iowa.
The construction projects included in this amendment are planned to begin in calendar year 2015.
At their March workshop, the Commission also continued discussion on the development of the 2016-2020 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program. This Program will identify all state highway system construction projects that can be accomplished over that five-year period due to the additional funding resulting from Senate File 257. The Program will be adopted at the June Commission meeting.
Critics, on the other hand, say the 10 cent gas tax increase was sold as repairing roads in need and not new road construction projects.
Eric Durgin, of Stuart, and a candidate for state legislature in District 20, had strong words regarding the funding of new roads. “The gas tax was sold to us deceptively to be used for road and bridge repair and now that it has passed we are told it will be used mostly for new construction projects.”
Iowa went from having the 36th highest gas tax to the 13th highest in the country after the March gasoline tax hike.