Johnston NW Beaver Drive Improvements


  • Local Governments
  • Public Sector


  • Engineering
  • Traffic + Safety
  • Transportation


  • Johnston, Iowa

Challenge: Land acquisition and property owner coordination can often be the most critical component of a successful project. Engineering design can be performed almost flawlessly; but without buy-in from affected properties, schedules, and costs can derail important public infrastructure projects. Collaborating with property owners and applying their input can result in cost-effective designs, avoid contentious legal proceedings, and bring a positive public perception.

Solution: The Johnston NW Beaver Drive Improvements project is an excellent example of our team’s ability to deliver a project by collaborating with property owners and providing transparency through public meetings and open council sessions for a more respectful land acquisition process. This one-mile segment of NW Beaver Drive from Merle Hay Road to NW 66th Avenue sees more than 8,000 vehicles per day on this low-speed, narrow, rural roadway section with approximately 40 residential driveways and seven local residential road intersections.

The HR Green team partnered with the City of Johnston to construct improvements which include roadway widening and overlay, bicycle accommodations, and new/improved drainage infrastructure. To accommodate these improvements, acquisition of permanent right-of-way, stormwater easements, and temporary easements were necessary. HR Green teamed with JCG Land Services to prepare property books, execute purchase agreements, order appraisals, and perform acquisition negotiations.

Our team worked through the conceptual and preliminary design phases with a forward-thinking approach while addressing immediate needs. We distributed a project-specific survey soliciting feedback on the proposed infrastructure improvements and conducted two public meetings where the proposed design was presented to project property owners. With the foresight in mind that each property would require various degrees of right-of-way and/or easement acquisition, these initial engagements with project stakeholders allowed them to provide valuable feedback on the design of City infrastructure as well as bring the project team’s attention to the many issues and circumstances unique to each property.

Following the second public meeting, we began one-on-one property owner meetings to discuss property impacts, acquisition, and compensation. This is the point where our team really began to understand the individual challenges associated with various properties and the unique concerns that each resident carried. Throughout the duration of these meetings, which took place on-site, in residents’ homes, and even over Zoom conference calls, we learned unique aspects of the project and fine-tuned our final design.
This process led to design features that benefited the City and residents and ultimately included:

  • Re-establishing historical drainage patterns
  • New storm sewer systems to improve runoff conditions on private property
  • Yard drains to release ponding water into the public storm drain system
  • Earth vegetative berms to re-establish roadway screening
  • Improved driveways and access for residents with unique conditions
  • Recreational bicycle trail alignment that limited impacts on properties
  • Widened roadway and new ride surface for safety and mobility

Trail and sidewalk projects are notorious for their desire from local and regional users and their opposition from the property owners where they are directly located. While each project will almost certainly have those “squeaky wheels” that can rally others to their cause against the improvements, the concept of Weigh-In Leads to Buy-In is a critical component of the HR Green team’s approach to project development and construction. On this project, it resulted in all right-of-way and easements being acquired in a timely manner without the need for any condemnation proceedings.

Benefit: The Johnston NW Beaver Drive Improvements project is a critical project for the City of Johnston to connect the City to regional trail networks as well as address the pavement condition of a heavily-traveled arterial through the City that connects to the wider Des Moines Metro area. The HR Green team’s proactive and persistent approach to design and public involvement was crucial to the successful delivery of this project for the local stakeholders and surrounding community.

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