NORTH LIBERTY– Let not history repeat itself.
At least, that’s what officials from the cities of Coralville and North Liberty seem to be aiming for as they revisit a 2004-2006 road study.
The City of Coralville hired an engineering firm in 2004 to conduct a study of Forevergreen Road to generate possible alignments for its extension eastward to Dubuque Street. Coralville paid Earth Tech $59,000 to do the study, with a $15,000 contribution from the City of North Liberty.
Earth Tech presented its final report and a recommendation for the road extension in 2006.
The report met with public outcry from citizens who felt they were left out of the process and were concerned about heavy traffic, disruption of homes and farmsteads, disturbance of natural resources, safety issues and lack of comprehensive planning. The Citizens for Sensible Development group organized to officially oppose the study’s methods and outcomes. In August 2006, the Urban Area Policy Board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County (MPOJC) voted 14-0 to reject the proposed road alignment as part of its Arterial Streets Plan. Two months later, the board voted 8-5 to throw out the study altogether, based on the board’s determination that the first study was too narrow in scope, did not follow a proper public input process and was not done from a comprehensive development perspective.
The terminal study was revived, however, after North Liberty and Coralville settled their annexation dispute over the as-yet undeveloped area. The two cities are now working in collaboration with MPOJC and engineering firm Shive-Hattery to re-open the study, reconsider its findings and get public input in order to move forward with searching for a road corridor that would extend Forevergreen from its roundabout at 12th Avenue Extension to Dubuque Street.
In June, the City of North Liberty approved a 28E agreement with the City of Coralville to split the $57,000 bill for Shive-Hattery to determine a new alignment.
In the agreement, it states Shive will use Earth Tech’s 2006 data as a starting point.
In addition, the contract required Shive to participate in an open house meeting to gather comments from the public about the future extension.
That meeting took place last Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty. Approximately 80 people turned out to review the data from the 2006 study, hear the results of an MPOJC 2010 traffic study on the area, ask questions and fill out comment cards that will become part of Shive-Hattery’s new data set.
Public input was the main reason for the meeting, said Shive-Hattery’s Kevin Trom.
“We want to gather any comments people might have on the road corridor,” said Trom. “There was not enough early public input in 2006; the public didn’t even get to see anything until (Earth Tech) asked the cities to adopt it.”
This time, several residents said they were better informed of the public meeting. Attendee Cindy Sharp, who lives on Kelsey Court, said she received several notifications.
“I got an email from the City of North Liberty, an email from the City of Coralville and there was a notice in my mailbox,” Sharp said.
Trom said residents who are concerned about the type and scale of future development planned for the area should stay updated through their respective city councils by attending regular council meetings or special work sessions.
“When both cities start their comprehensive plan updates, if your main concern is development for the area, those are the meetings to attend,” said Trom.
Trom and representatives of the City of North Liberty, the MPOJC and Shive-Hattery all reiterated there is currently no alignment in mind and no funding set aside for the road’s construction at this time by either city.
“There is no future corridor that has been identified with the Forevergreen extension; however, all these efforts will go toward possibly putting that on the map,” said Kent Ralston, Assistant Transportation Planner of MPOJC. “That’s where the consultants need to work with you all to make sure they can provide a good (alignment), if it comes to the point that the cities can agree, the landowners can agree and the community as a whole can agree to preserve the corridor
Ralston presented the only new information of the evening, as he reviewed the results of a 2010 traffic study for the arterial roads in the targeted area. That study looked at collision data, pedestrian access, land uses, average daily traffic volumes and current and future infrastructure to predict future traffic patterns.
Today, Ralston said, Dubuque Street and First Avenue/North Liberty Road are operating well under capacity, except for short periods during morning and evening peak hours.
“From a transportation planning perspective, there is room to grow on those streets. They can actually handle more traffic,” Ralston said. The study indicated the same would be true into year 2040, based on other projected growth data.
The MPOJC’s traffic model also suggested a Forevergreen Road extension would attract about 3,000 vehicles a day, and likely only warrant a two-lane, arterial street, even if new schools were built in the area.
The traffic count information prompted several questions from the audience, but Ralston declined to offer too many specific details. The slides from Ralston’s PowerPoint presentation will be made available on both Coralville’s and North Liberty’s city websites, he added.
Brian Willham of Shive-Hattery said next steps, after gathering public input, are to look at different potential corridors
“Similar to the study done before, we are going to look at a lot of environmental and engineering issues, and impacts to properties, wetlands and steep slopes,” said Witham, although Shive-Hattery’s contract indicates any additional environmental or archaeological studies are not included in the project’s initial cost estimate.
“Then, we will meet with property owners directly impacted by these alternatives, the schools, the county, the Citizens for Sensible Development group, we want to bring everybody to the table,” Willham continued.
After those meetings– 12 total required by Shive’s contract– a final public meeting will be held to present roadway alternatives and get additional public input.
“We just want to keep everyone involved as we can throughout the process,” Willham concluded.