A $5.4 million federal grant will jump-start an effort to improve roads and reduce traffic congestion around John Deere Dubuque Works.

Federal officials this week announced that Dubuque County has landed a $5.4 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development grant. Funds will be used for road and trail projects along the Northwest Arterial and in the area around the John Deere facility.

“It would have taken a long time for us to work that into our plan (without the grant), and so it definitely is going to speed up the process,” said Dave Baker, chairman of the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors.

Officials at John Deere, Dubuque County’s largest employer, are excited as well.

“It’s going to be great for the community,” said Mark Dickson, general manager of the facility. “It’s going to be great for our employees.”

Projects to be completed with BUILD grant funds are:

  • Realigning and adding signals at West John Deere Road and South Parking Lot Drive to create a four-way intersection with South John Deere Road and Herber Road.
  • Adding a southbound lane from West John Deere Road to south of Peru Road, providing a climbing lane for large vehicles.
  • Making turn lane improvements at the intersection of Peru and South John Deere roads.
  • Improving the intersection of U.S. 52 and West John Deere Road, including added turn lanes and traffic signals.
  • Developing a trail that connects the John Deere plant with the Proving Grounds Recreation Area, Heritage Trail and Northwest Arterial trail.
  • Bringing Northwest Arterial “into a state of good repair,” according to the county’s grant application.

The total cost of the work is expected to come to $10.5 million, and requires a local match of about $5.1 million.

A “significant portion” of the local funding will come from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s planned improvements to Northwest Arterial. The state agency is preparing to turn over jurisdiction to the City of Dubuque, said Assistant City Manager Teri Goodmann, who assisted with the grant application.

While the roads around the John Deere plant are maintained by the county, city officials have a vested interest in the project because John Deere is a major local employer, Goodmann said.

“They’ve grown, they continue to grow, and they have products that need to move in and out, and there’s safety concerns and other concerns related to this transportation infrastructure,” she said.

A study by IIW P.C. examining traffic around the John Deere plant noted issues with semi-tractor trailer and employee traffic congestion during peak times.

Dickson said John Deere officials initially went to the county seeking road improvements to improve safety for employees.

“It enables safer traffic and more capacity for growth of the volume of traffic,” Dickson said.

In the grant application, officials proposed that construction on the relevant projects could begin in 2020 and be completed by the end of 2022.

Dubuque County Engineer Anthony Bardgett said he expects to meet sometime this winter with state and federal officials to hash out a project time line and how they will move forward.

“Now, we have to start putting our heads together on how we’re going to start developing this,” he said.

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