AMES, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Transportation presented the Iowa Transportation Commission with the draft Fiscal Year 2014-2018 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program at its meeting on May 14th. The Program reflects Iowa’s multimodal transportation system through inclusion of investments in aviation, transit, railroads, trails and highways. The Commission and the Iowa DOT remain committed to providing modern, safe and efficient transportation services to the public.
A major component of the Program is the highway program, which documents programmed investments in the Primary Highway System for the next five years. For FY 2014-2018, approximately $2.6 billion is forecast to be available for highway right of way and construction.
The highway section was developed to achieve several objectives. The Commission’s primary investment objective remains stewardship (i.e., safety, maintenance, modernization) of Iowa’s existing highway system. More than $1.1 billion is programmed from FY 2014 through FY 2018 for modernization of Iowa’s existing highway system and for enhanced highway safety features. The highway section also includes significant interstate investments on Interstate 29 in Sioux City, I-29/80/480 in Council Bluffs, and I-74 in Bettendorf/Davenport. Portions of these investments address stewardship needs.
The Commission and Iowa DOT continue to recognize the critical importance of an effective and efficient interstate highway system. The interstate highways connect all transportation systems in Iowa and allow major freight movements to occur delivering Iowa products to the world’s marketplace.
While these previously programmed multiyear corridor improvement projects will remain on schedule, the Commission was not able to add additional segments of these corridors to this Program. This is the result of flat or uncertain revenue at the federal and state level, increasing construction costs, and the need to invest in the existing highway system. Absent additional revenue at the state and/or federal level, the Commission does not anticipate being able to add additional corridor projects to the Program for the foreseeable future.
A large part of funding available for highway programming comes from the federal government. Accurately estimating future federal funding levels is dependent on having a multiyear federal transportation authorization bill. The current authorization, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), was signed into law on July 6, 2012. However, it is only a two-year authorization set to expire on Sept. 30, 2014, resulting in continued federal funding uncertainty after this date.
Another major concern with federal funding is solvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) beyond 2014. At that time, the HTF, which is funded primarily from federal fuel taxes, will not be able to provide funding at current levels. If this is not corrected, drastic cuts to the federal highway program are anticipated. If this occurs, the Commission will have to make significant changes to the Program in FY 2015 and beyond. In fact, approximately half of the funding available for programming in FY 2015 could be impacted by this issue. As the Commission decides which projects will be rescheduled, they will consider statewide equity, length of time a project has been considered for programming, how many times a project has been rescheduled, purpose of a project, whether the project is already underway, local efforts to move forward on a project, and current conditions and need for a project.