Southwest Connector Interchange (Veterans Parkway) and Corridor Location Study
HR Green, Inc. led the consultant team that prepared Interchange and Corridor Location Study documentation, including supporting technical reports for goals and objectives, multimodal needs, travel demand forecasts, preliminary environmental screening analysis, and an alternatives analysis. HR Green also led the technical advisory committee, comprised of agency officials from Federal Highway Administration, Iowa DOT, Warren County, Cities of Cumming, Norwalk, and West Des Moines, and a project advisory committee comprised by members of the SW Economic Development Cooperative (Cities of Waukee, West Des Moines, Norwalk, Cumming, and economic development authorities from Madison and Warren Counties).
In December 2013, after consideration of public input and City of West Des Moines policy action, the roadway name was officially changed from the Southwest Connector to Veterans Parkway. The future Veterans Parkway has been a planned roadway through Northwest Warren and Madison Counties since the 1990 West Des Moines Comprehensive Plan was adopted. Between 2007 and 2012, the future of Veterans Parkway between IA 5 and I-35 was uncertain as a proposed alignment failed to achieve FHWA criteria due to lack of logical termini and independent utility. This 2014 Study was able to achieve FHWA approval by extending the corridor to the planned Grand Prairie Parkway intersection to achieve logical termini and independent utility, and continue with the planning of Veterans Parkway in the Des Moines Metropolitan Area to enable the future roadway to eventually connect with I-80 and form a new southern beltway. The fully-constructed roadway is expected to alleviate congestion of the existing Interstate System, especially the I-80/I-35/I-235 Interchange. The Study enabled the roadway project to progress toward design, NEPA evaluation, an Interchange Justification Report, and construction. The Study was developed so that project segments could be designed and constructed with local, State, or Federal funding sources.
With the achievement of logical termini and independent utility, new approaches to address future transportation system needs in the corridor were also studied. For the first time, planners working on behalf of Warren County were involved in the development of goals, objectives, and needs for the Study. One area of focus for transportation planners was the assessment of multimodal needs throughout the Study Area. While the Study Area was within the DMAMPO planning area boundary, the Study advanced multimodal travel alternatives, improvements to the Great Western Trail, and sustainable best practices into a primarily rural area. The alignment alternatives were evaluated to determine their impact to environmental resources, including wetlands, floodplains, threatened and endangered species, and cultural resources. The layering of traffic data, natural and human environment features mapping, and project alternative conceptual drawings enabled the most feasible and prudent alternative corridor alignments to be revealed.
Public engagement utilized throughout the Study included meetings, a website, and individual communication with interested individuals. Engaging the public to determine the recommended alignment alternative was important in determining if Veterans Parkway would improve access and mobility throughout the Study Area. Meeting with groups like the Southwest Economic Development Cooperative, representing various cities and counties in the southwest Des Moines Metropolitan Area, improved the overall understanding of potential impacts Veterans Parkway may have on the surrounding region.
The Study’s recommended alignment supported the economic development goals of the City of West Des Moines, City of Cumming, and the Warren County Economic Development Corporation by maintaining large developable parcels along the corridor. The recommended alignment also minimizes right-of-way costs by using a publicly-owned transportation corridor that provided for the concurrent reconstruction of the Great Western Trail during roadway construction. By following the recommended alignment, improved access will further opportunities in Northwest Warren County. The current construction of a second data center by the Microsoft Corporation in West Des Moines, located adjacent to the northern project terminus at Iowa Highway 5, is expected to accelerate additional economic development and new commercial, industrial, and residential growth along the corridor.