Highway construction

U.S. 151/61/52 under construction in Dubuque 1990.

Officials considered three alternatives 40 years ago for a proposed stretch of highway linking U.S. 52/61/151 with the under-construction Dubuque-Wisconsin bridge.

Known as “Freeway 561” during the planning stages in 1979, the stretch of roadway eventually would combine elements of a ground-level and elevated freeway when it was completed in 1993.

Here is how the Telegraph Herald reported on the discussions about the proposed highway addition in its Nov. 16, 1979, edition.

THE CHOICES FOR FREEWAY 561

Local transportation planners must decide which of three alternate designs for a highway through downtown Dubuque will move traffic most efficiently in 10 and 20 years, and which of the three is best for Dubuque.

One of the alternatives is a ground-level expressway that will approach Dubuque along U.S. 151 from the south, swing eastward under the Julien Dubuque Bridge and run along the railroad tracks toward the Dubuque-Wisconsin bridge now under construction.

Local transportation officials yesterday received traffic projections for the ground-level route, which state officials had said isn’t feasible.

The Federal Highway Administration insisted on the ground-level design during the summer while state transportation planners were drafting a supplemental environmental impact statement for the highway, known as Freeway 561.

Both of the other designs call for an elevated-freeway design.

One would follow the same route under the Julien Dubuque Bridge and along the railroad tracks, but would require less land because the freeway would stand on huge pillars.

The other design follows a different route that would pass west of the Julien Dubuque Bridge, then cut across the southeast corner of downtown Dubuque and angle toward the Dubuque-Wisconsin bridge.

Bob Humphrey, director of the Iowa transportation department’s project planning office, said the ground-level design poses significant difficulties.

A major problem would be squeezing a ground-level expressway into the railroad corridor now owned by the Illinois Central Gulf and Milwaukee Road.

Humphrey said officials from Illinois Central said they would not be willing to relinquish any of their land for such a highway.

The railroads require yards that have no curves, Humphrey said, and shifting the yards slightly along the north end would be both difficult and costly.

Humphrey said that, if planning for Freeway 561 proceeds without further delays, public hearings on the alternatives could be held by next March.

Approval by the Federal Highway Administration would come no earlier than early 1981, with construction tentatively scheduled to begin in 1982.

Copyright, Telegraph Herald. This story cannot be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior authorization from the TH.