Eastern Hills Drive, the long-awaited north-south beltway on the eastern edge of Council Bluffs from Highway 6 down to Highway 92, opened Thursday with a ribbon cutting and short parade of vehicles.
It was Segment D of the Eastern Hills Drive and Connecting Roadways Program, which was planned with six segments that collectively improve the transportation network in eastern Council Bluffs and increase connections to developments along Greenview Road, Steven Road and Cottonwood Road, a press release from the city stated.
“These road improvements are going to help this area for a long time,” Council Bluffs Public Works Director Matt Cox said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new roundabout where Eastern Hills Drive intersects with Greenview Drive.
The link will give law enforcement officers easy access to Highway 92 from Highway 6, he said. And the project included extending the city trail system about 3 miles.
Tim Wichman, a member of the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors, said the road will assist with spurring economic development and help first responders.
“It proves that city and county can work together,” Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh said.
Segment D took the beltway from the intersection of Eastern Hills Drive and State Orchard Road to Greenview roughly along the route of State Orchard, then from there to Highway 92 along a line east of the existing State Orchard Road.
A 10-foot-wide concrete trail was constructed on the north side of the new roadway. The project also required the construction of two large concrete box culverts within Little Pony Creek.
Segment D cost $8.8 million, a press release from the city stated. The total cost of all six segments of Eastern Hills Drive and Connecting Roadways Program is approximately $25 million. Several trips to Washington D.C. in the early 2000s led to the award of a $3.5 million appropriation and $10.2 million in earmarks.
Surface Transportation Program funds allocated to the region were also utilized, allowing 80% of the program costs to be paid with federal funding. The City of Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County share the remaining 20%.
Planning of the beltway began almost 20 years ago, according to Barry Cleaveland, who was part of the early discussions as a member of the planning commission and the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission. The first phase of the project was aided by a RISE grant from the state, he said.
Former Mayor Tom Hanafan said he, former Chamber of Commerce President Bob Mundt, former Chamber Senior Director of Economic Development Matt Buchanan, Pottawattamie County Supervisor Scott Belt, Cleaveland, and former Pottawattamie County Growth Alliance Chairman Matt O’Reilly went to Washington to ask for funding for the project. Once they got a green light, though, an environmental impact study had to be done, which took almost six years.
“There was a lot of long-term planning,” Hanafan said. “It was a very good cooperative -- it took a long time, but it was a good project. I think you’ll see a lot of growth out here.”
The project was started by retired public works director Greg Reeder and finished by Cox, Walsh said.
“As the city develops, the only direction it really can develop is southeast,” Walsh said, adding the project will lead to more residential development.
“It also connects to the Council Bluffs airport, and we think having a vibrant airport will help economic development,” Walsh continued.
Segment F, which will extend Steven Road to Cedar Lane, is scheduled for completion in 2022, Cox said. Segment E, which would include improvements to Greenview, is a longer-term goal and not yet scheduled for construction.
The consultant team includes HGM, Snyder & Associates, Schemmer, HDR and Terracon. Hawkins Construction served as the contractor.
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