Iowa agencies administer $2.2 billion in federal infrastructure dollars

A year after Congress passed a sweeping $1 trillion infrastructure bill, Iowa authorities are working to identify projects with more than $2 billion in funding.

Iowa has been allocated $2.2 billion so far, according to the White House. This includes funds for road maintenance, airports, water quality and more. Additional funds will be made available over the five-year life of the law.

The largest single item in the law concerned roads, bridges and road safety. Iowa has been allocated $1.5 billion so far and is expected to receive $3.9 billion over five years, according to the White House.

While some of that money was a continuation of previous federal funding bills, it resulted in a 30% increase in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s construction program over the next five years, said Stuart Anderson, director of the DOT Transportation Development Division.

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Iowa’s five-year construction program attracted $3.6 billion in state and federal funding last year. This year, the budget is $4.2 billion, allowing for more projects and giving state and local governments wiggle room to deal with inflationary pressures on construction costs.

The state Transportation Commission approved the five-year program in June, and Anderson said local governments are working to find projects for the new funds, most of which will start next year.

The increase in funding is “quite impactful,” Anderson said, but it’s smaller than the increase the department saw as part of a 10-cent hike in the state gas tax in 2015.

“It’s certainly significant, but it’s not unusual or outrageous based on recent government action taken to address the lack of investment for bridges and roads and roads,” he said.

Beyond routine road funding, the law provided money for specific programs addressing bridges, infrastructure resilience and reducing carbon emissions. Certain projects have also received specific federal funding, including $20 million to improve 2.7 miles of La Porte Road in Waterloo and add sidewalks, bike lanes and other pedestrian shelters.

With 4,504 bridges classified as “structurally deficient” by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, Iowa ranks the nation’s worst for the number of bridges with that designation, and only second as a percentage of all bridges to West Virginia.

Anderson said the infrastructure money will have some impact on improving Iowa’s bridge problem. But as some bridges are repaired, others will fall into disrepair, and he doesn’t expect the number to improve much.

“It’s always that balance of how much progress you can make, but this additional funding will certainly help, especially with this special bridging funding,” Anderson said.

A project along the Missouri River in Sioux City includes two allocations — $315.9 million and $9.7 million from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Iowa Airports has received more than $51 million in improvements, including $20 million to expand and modernize the terminal at Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids.

Sioux City Municipal Airport was awarded $1,030,552 for airport improvements.

Eastern Iowa Airport will issue a bid for the final phase of the $65 million terminal upgrades in December, and construction is slated to begin next spring, Director Marty Lenss said.

The construction includes adding four new jetways, updating the gate areas, adding a new restaurant and outdoor patio, and expanding the outdoor area to accommodate larger aircraft. The project will also install geothermal heating and cooling in the terminal.

Before the airport received the federal grant, it planned to split the final construction into two phases due to funding constraints, Lenss said. With the boost in funding, the airport can complete the modernization in one project.

“It really enabled us to complete the entire phase of the expansion that would serve all of eastern Iowa for the next 20+ years,” he said.

Funds have also been announced for airport terminal upgrades at Des Moines International Airport, Washington Municipal Airport, Council Bluffs Municipal Airport and Dubuque Regional Airport.

More than 70 other Iowa regional and city airports have received funding from the Federal Airport Administration to maintain their airports.

The law allocated $113 million to Iowa to improve water infrastructure and security.

Overall, the amount being spent on water infrastructure, including drinking water and utility line replacements, is about three times what the state would normally see, said Theresa Enright, the State Revolving Fund’s program coordinator at the Department of Natural Resources.

The state has identified 11 projects in the first round of funding for $24 million in additional funding for clean water initiatives and $28.5 million for potable water. The DNR must give away 49% of the money as loan forgiveness with a focus on disadvantaged communities, Enright said.

“I feel like we’re delivering a method of distributing the funds that is as fair and equitable as possible, based on the general intention of Congress that these funds should go to disadvantaged communities,” Enright said.

White House figures show that $45 million has been allocated for lead service line replacements, and the DNR is building an inventory of lead service lines to identify areas that need replacing, said Enright. The inventory is due with the Environmental Protection Agency by October 2024.

“We as a state as a whole don’t know where all of our leadership lines exist, if they do,” Enright said.

Several initiatives are coming to Iowa related to electric vehicles, buses and charging stations.

Iowa has been allocated $18.5 million to install electric vehicle chargers statewide. Over the entire five-year period, Iowa is expected to receive more than $50 million. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, more than 5,880 electric vehicles were state-licensed in Iowa in 2021.

Iowa received more than $15 million to purchase low- and zero-emission buses for mass transit programs. The funds can be used to purchase both battery-powered buses and buses that run on propane, which emits less CO2 than conventional diesel buses.

Thirteen rural Iowa school districts were also selected to receive rebates for purchasing electric and low-emission school buses under an Environmental Protection Agency program. The schools will purchase a total of 28 electric buses and two propane-powered buses.

The Logan-Magnolia School District in Logan, Iowa received nearly $2 million to purchase five new electric buses. District Superintendent Tom Ridder said he hoped the funds would cover the full cost of the buses and save the school a lot of money.

While Ridder said the school doesn’t yet know the cost of electricity to charge the buses, he expects there will be cost savings compared to fuel costs.

“They replace five buses; Of course, the diesel buses are not that expensive, but you have an opportunity to save money on buses and also help the environment,” he said. “It’s kind of an easy decision to make.”

Elsewhere, Iowa was awarded $68 million for infrastructure resilience, $360 million for ports and waterways, $5.9 million for pollution cleanup, and $57 million for energy efficiency and energy.

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