Plans Are Getting Hammered Out To Help Make A Southeast Connector A Reality

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The northwest by-pass around Oskaloosa has been worked on for years, and it looks like those plans will become a reality in the coming years.

Another plan to help traffic by-pass the center of town was a southeast connector when the Iowa Department of Transportation was involved.

Today, the state agency is focused on the northwest by-pass only and won’t participate in the southeast connector.

The local governments made up of the Mahaska County Supervisors and the City of Oskaloosa have been working with the engineering firm McClure to make the pieces fall into place for that project.

McClure and the two government bodies held a work session in August and have since continued to make the connector a reality.

The hope was to use a Rise Grant to help fund the roadway between Highways 63 and 23, enabling the businesses located within that part of the community easier access.

The plan at this point is also to connect that link with Osborne Avenue, which will connect that area with Highway 92 east of Oskaloosa.

From that area on 92, there are plans to connect north towards 220th Street, making access to the east side of Oskaloosa easier for traffic.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk says that the project is “going really well”.

Groenendyk added a discussion with the businesses that would be most impacted by this connector, and they expressed their interest in rail for the project.

“What’s your needs for the next 40 years,” is one of the questions Groenendyk is asking of those businesses that would benefit from the project.

In addition to serving area businesses, the hope is to help make the road system safer for everyone else. One of those areas that would be significantly impacted includes 15th Avenue West, which is a street currently used by many tractor-trailers as they navigate towards industry.

Building those private-public partnerships to work together, “to do a few things that make it all better for everybody,” is something Groenendyk said he’d like to see.

Building a certified site and receiving a ‘Challenge Grant’ are keys to making the project a reality. The grant would have initially provided a 70% cost coverage but has recently declined to 65%.

“I think the idea behind the decrease in the available grant funds is that more communities are trying to get certified sites, and the state was incentivizing communities to develop shovel-ready sites. As more communities do that, obviously, then there’s probably a lower need to incentivize so you know again you’re trying to get the state’s trying to get to a tipping point where cities just do this or communities just do this, and it’s not just cities, you can be county too,” explained Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock. “But you have these entities doing this and then there isn’t a need for as much incentivizing going on from the state level so yeah there’s there’s been a decrease.”

The grant is dependent upon a ‘Certified Site’. Schrock spoke about making that Certified Site a reality.

“The first part is trying to get what we call a certified site identified where we work, using our zoning code and our comprehensive plan, to identify properties that might logically grow to be larger industrial development opportunities. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the real heavy industrial use, but it could be things like an Interpower or Barnhouse, where you have a kind of business park development as well. So it could be a mixture of those things. We’re trying to identify acreage that would get us a certain amount of grant funding from the DOT.”

“A certified site is basically a shovel-ready property for either our existing businesses to expand upon or for us to be able to recruit new businesses to our community,” explained Schrock.

“Once we get the property owners on board, or they figure out how much they want to sell the property for, if they want to lease it, or if they just don’t want to participate. Then we go through the planning process of how do we get services like water and sewer, gas, electricity to those sites. So it’s kind of a long process, a planning process which will take time,” added Schrock.

Groenendyk said he’s conscience of the spending, and he doesn’t want to raise taxes to pay for the project.

“I think this is a priority for everyone involved,” added Groenendyk of the project.

“And so if you’re not going to maintain investment and keep, keep the people happy here somewhat and keep the business growing, that money can be pulled elsewhere and invested in some other community,” said Groenendyk. “And so I think a lot of the home offices are excited to see that we’re going to invest in their area and their transportation needs. That makes it a lot easier for them to expand, and it gives them a new interest in raising money, even adding additional business here. So I mean anytime you can get businesses excited and involved and talking about expansion. There’s always a return for not only just tax revenue but jobs. And you know that that affects people and affects schools, that affect downtown business shopping. It’s the whole circle, so there’s benefits everywhere.”

Posted by on Dec 30 2020. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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