DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa transportation officials plan to make a near-record $779 million in statewide road improvements for the upcoming construction season.
The largest project involves widening 40 miles (64 kilometers) of U.S. Highway 20 in northwest Iowa from two lanes up to four lanes, the Des Moines Register reported . The $286 million project is expected to be completed this fall.
Commercial and industrial development along the route is expected to increase after highway completion, said Shirley Phillips, president of the U.S. 20 Highway Association, a corridor advocacy group.
“We are thrilled,” Phillips said.
A 10-cent per gallon state tax increase on gasoline and diesel fuel that took effect in 2015 has generated an additional $200 million annually for Iowa road projects, said Stuart Anderson, director of the state Department of Transportation’s Planning, Programming and Modal Division.
The state spent the most on highway projects in 2016 when a little more than $800 million was programmed for construction work, according to transportation officials. But they said this year will come close to that record.
The Des Moines area, Ames, Council Bluffs, the Quad Cities and Waterloo are among the areas that will experience road work. The Transportation Department will create about 500 work zones, and cities and counties will create hundreds of their own work zones.
“A lot of work will be going on,” said Mark Bortle, a traffic safety engineer with the Transportation Department. “Every time you see a black and orange sign, you need to obey it — and don’t speed. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention, and put your phone down.”
Motorists should expect extra enforcement by state troopers and transportation officers in work zones, Bortle said. Other safety measures include electronic speed sensors, traffic sensors and electronic message boards with information about road conditions.
Ten people were killed in Iowa work zone crashes last year, while 13 people died in 2016, the second worst year since 1978.