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WATERLOO -- The city has reached a $33 million cost-sharing agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation to complete the reconstruction of U.S. Highway 63.

Waterloo City Council members voted 6-0 Monday to approve the design details and funding estimates to rebuild the state highway from Jefferson Street downtown north to Newell Street over the next three years.

A key change involves replacing the flood-prone Canadian National Railway underpass on U.S. 63 between Dane and Newell streets with an overpass. The railroad tracks and an existing pedestrian highway crossing would become "tunnels" through the new mechanically stabilized earthen walls of the overpass.

Other work includes a new storm water pump station to alleviate flash flooding along the highway on the west side of downtown, replacing 100-year-old sanitary sewer lines, adding new trails and sidewalks and decorative lighting features.

State transportation officials have earmarked $22.4 million toward the estimated $32.7 million overall cost of the project. The city has secured another $7.2 million in federal aid.

Finally, the city is projecting $2 million in general obligation bonds repaid with property taxes and $1 million in local sewer revenue to complete the financial package.

"I think we're well funded for the project," said City Engineer Eric Thorson. "They're large numbers, obviously, but it's also a very important project for the city."

The DOT is projecting a December bid opening for the segment of U.S. 63 from Jefferson Street, near the Cedar Valley SportsPlex, across the river to Franklin Street. The highway is split there on First Street and Mullan Avenue so work can be done without major detours.

The second "overpass" phase from Franklin to Newell is expected to be let in March or April next year, and work would require a detour for through traffic.

A final contract covering enhancements, including some trail and lighting features, would be bid by the city in December 2017 or early 2018. Much of that work can't be done until the highway reconstruction is nearing completion.

Council members voiced few worries about the agreement during a work session Monday. But one area of concern was safety the 20-foot by 12-foot box culvert that will serve as a pedestrian tunnel through the overpass.

Councilman Steve Schmitt said he was concerned the tunnel could be a hangout for criminal activity.

Thorson said the tunnel will be at street level and well-lit, so it could be easily viewed by those passing by. It was not feasible to put the pedestrian crossing over the highway in that location.

IDOT reconstructed U.S. 63 from Newell north to Donald Street over the past two construction seasons, a project that involved buying out several homes. No buyouts are expected during the new construction phase.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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