The Iowa Department of Transportation will soon unveil its concept plans for the fourth segment of the Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvement Program.
On Thursday, the DOT announced that the plan will include the demolition of some houses in the city.
The project includes Interstate 29 from the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge to the south and stretches northward to follow the roadway’s bend to the east to near the 35th Street exit, according to Wendy Thompson, public information officer for the interstate program. The work will also include I-480 from I-29 to the Missouri River.
As part of the project, the DOT plans to purchase and demolish some houses in Council Bluffs, according to Wes Mayberry, a transportation engineer specialist out of the central office in Ames who’ll help oversee the segment four project.
The project will also require alterations to Dodge Riverside Golf Course. The work will impact the 13th hole green and surrounding area, along with the 14th hole tee and portions of the 14th hole fairway. On Monday night, the Council Bluffs City Council unanimously approved having Mayor Matt Walsh work with the DOT on accommodating the project.
Mayberry said 34 homes are currently affected by the project plans. He stressed that the project is still in the concept phase and that number could change. Homeowners that could be affected have been contacted, according to the DOT.
“These are preliminary numbers,” Mayberry said. “We’re still refining the designs to reduce the number of impacts we need to make. Things could change.”
The homes are located on 37th Street between Ninth Avenue and West Broadway, and between Second and Ninth Avenues around 34th Street, Mayberry said. The houses are a mix of single- and multi-family homes.
“We only take the ones that are necessary that are impacted by the project,” Mayberry said. “Once we identify that we need the property and the home, there’s a relocation process. If someone is living there, we work to get them relocated to something equivalent to what they have today.”
The process will begin in full later this year or in early 2018, after the transportation department has completed the environmental evaluation of the project. Mayberry said previous public meetings discussed a few concept options and some homeowners that would be affected either way have approached the DOT about getting the negotiation process started earlier.
“They see they’re impacted and say, ‘I just wanna get out of here now,’” Mayberry said, noting the owners can apply through a hardship program and “if they have justification, we can acquire the houses earlier.”
When the DOT moves forward on purchases on the bulk of the houses, Mayberry said the right-of-way process starts with an appraisal of each property. Negotiations then begin with the occupants or owners.
If the homeowners decline to sell the property and negotiations break down, the transportation department can use eminent domain to obtain the building “if it gets pushed to that level,” Mayberry said.
“We seldom use that,” he said. “During the negotiation process, we come up with a price everyone can be happy walking away with.”
The department will host a public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 15 at the Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvement Program office at the Mall of the Bluffs to unveil the chosen concept for segment four, Thompson said.
“Everybody in the project area will be notified,” she said.