CORRECTED: With eye on infrastructure bill, Dubuque officials prepping 4 major projects

CORRECTED: The City of Dubuque plans include the construction of a vehicular and pedestrian overpass on East 14th Street, crossing over the railroad tracks. An earlier version of this story did not note that the overpass would serve vehicles as well.

The construction of three roundabouts on a major Dubuque roadway is one of four projects that city officials hope to fund through a federal infrastructure bill if it is approved.

The four projects would seek to make significant improvements to streets, along with making significant sewer and stormwater infrastructure improvements, according to city staff.

City Council members recently voted to identify projects that could utilize federal funding if the federal infrastructure bill is approved. The bill, which was passed by the U.S. Senate in August but still awaits approval from the House of Representatives, seeks to introduce $550 billion in new infrastructure spending throughout the country.

Last week, a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill tied to the infrastructure bill passed the U.S. House, and a deadline to vote on the infrastructure bill was set for Sept. 27.

During goal-setting sessions in Dubuque, City Manager Mike Van Milligen stressed the importance of having city projects in shovel-ready condition ahead of the bill’s passage, meaning the projects are already designed and engineered and are ready for the bidding process.

Teri Goodmann, director of strategic partnerships for the city, said 59 potential infrastructure improvements totaling $459 million have been identified by city officials, but only four of them are being focused on for funding through the federal infrastructure bill.

“We actually started meeting March 1 to look at what projects could be eligible for federal infrastructure funding,” Goodmann said. “We were aware this presidential administration would have an interest in an infrastructure bill.”

The most significant project seeks to reconstruct large portions of both 16th Street, from Elm Street to Admiral Sheehy Drive; and Elm Street, from the five-point intersection with East 20th Street and Rhomberg Avenue to Kerper Boulevard.

Goodmann said the project would include the installation of new sidewalks and the construction of roundabouts at the intersections of 16th Street with Kerper Boulevard, with Admiral Sheehy Drive and with Elm Street.

Additionally, the project would include the construction of a vehicular and pedestrian overpass on 14th Street, crossing over the railroad tracks.

Goodmann said that project is the only one of the four highlighted by the city that still needs funding for design and engineering before it can be considered shovel-ready. However, city staff already submitted a $3 million grant application through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s RAISE program to secure funding for the design and engineering costs. The total cost of the project has not yet been determined.

Of the three additional projects under consideration, one would reconstruct the corridor of West 17th and West Locust streets, from Heeb Street’s intersection with 17th Street to Angella Street’s crossing with West Locust.

Another would improve the corridor of Kaufmann Avenue, from Kane to North Main streets.

Goodmann said both projects, estimated to collectively cost $40.9 million, will include improvements to the streets’ water and sewer infrastructure.

A final proposed project would seek to replace 60-year-old pump and gate infrastructure near Kerper Boulevard. Goodmann said the aging pumps have been maintained by city staff for several years but now require $17.1 million in improvements and component replacements.

“Public Works has been patching it up and keeping it working all these years,” Goodmann said. “It’s reached an age though where it really needs to be replaced.”

Goodmann noted that the projects still have a long way to go before they can come to fruition. The federal infrastructure bill must pass through Congress and be signed by President Joe Biden. Then, the city must seek funding approval through the federal grants that are made as part of the bill.

During the recent goal-setting sessions, City Council members voted as a top city priority preparing city projects for the federal infrastructure bill. Brad Cavanagh was among the council members who ranked that as a top priority during the first round of goal-setting voting.

“We’ve needed a federal infrastructure bill for years,” he said this week. “A lot of the things that need work on you can’t really see — things like water and sewer infrastructure. That all needs a bunch of upgrading.”