CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Change is afoot in the business climate of southern Cedar Falls.
Just more than a week ago Scheels broke ground on a new store near Target in East Viking Plaza. Now Menards is making plans to open a new home improvement store just down Viking Road in Pinnacle Prairie.
For three years retail growth has been nearly stagnant along the Viking Road corridor. Now with two big projects taking shape, the city is scrambling to make sure the roads can handle the traffic.
"There are a lot of communities around the state that would beg to have the problems we are having right now," said Ron Gaines, city director of developmental services.
The new Menards store would sit at the intersection of Pinnacle Parkway and Brandilynn Boulevard, just north of Viking Road.
On Monday, the council looked at three major options to relieve traffic at Highway 58 and Viking Road.
The most immediately available option, is to extend Pinnacle Parkway from Greenhill Road to Viking Road.
The City Council on Monday voted in committee to negotiate with Merrill Oster and Lockard Development to build the four-lane road. The city has proposed having the developer pay for extension of the road, but for the city to provide payments over several years using Pinnacle Prairie tax increment financing revenue to pay for 50 percent of the cost.
The project is estimated to cost $4 million to $4.4 million.
"Every analysis we've seen shows it would have some impact on traffic at Viking Road and Highway 58," Seymour said of the Prairie Parkway connection.
A second component would move the stop lights at Andrea Drive farther east to keep traffic from backing up on Viking Road all the way to the intersection with Highway 58. Access to the Target store off Viking Road would become a right turn in and right turn out only. The primary access to East Viking Plaza would then move west to Walmart Drive.
The third, most effective and most expensive option by far would be a total reconstruction of the Highway 58 and Viking Road intersection. The long-range plan has been to elevate the highway over Viking Road and have on- and off-ramps for access. However, that project would cost an estimated $25 million.
The Iowa Department of Transportation does not have the project on its schedule and had proposed a temporary measure to add an additional left turn lane to the road to alleviate part of the problem. That stopgap measure would still cost an estimated $3 million.
On Monday, the council authorized city staff to work with the DOT to try to skip the temporary step and move more quickly to the major reconstruction job. To do so, the city could offer to contribute toward the project, possible as much as $5 million to $10 million. The proposal would put industrial park TIF money into the project. Such a contribution could be done in two years with revenues from the thriving industrial park.
Councilman John Runchey praised the creative approach.
"I think this is just a terrific idea because it doesn't strap our budget," Runchey said.
However, Kamayar Enshayan questioned the spending, saying it does come at a cost.
"This comes from TIF, the magical TIF, so it's money that could be in the general fund," Enshayan said.