Bettendorf granted ‘great start’ to Forest Grove expansion

Bettendorf’s creation of a northern tourism gateway picked up significant momentum last week.

Mere days after city officials received the first of two $500,000 grants expected from the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) in 2022 for the Forest Grove Drive Reconstruction Project, the Bettendorf City Council jumpstarted the project’s next phase. Council members passed two resolutions related to Phase IV, which will bring road upgrades to the area marked by the TBK Bank Sports Complex. 

At its Jan. 18 meeting, the council approved a professional services agreement for Phase IV work with the Phase III designers — Nebraska’s HDR Engineering, Inc. The council also authorized staff to submit an application for a third Iowa DOT grant. The grant would provide partial funding of infrastructure improvements needed for a 110-acre development at the northeast corner of Forest Grove and Middle Road. 

The grant application is due Feb. 1.

Referred to as “FG 80” in city documents, the development includes a possible expansion of the sports complex as well as another hotel and strip mall with more retail and dining facilities. The city is close to finalizing a development agreement, documents show.

Example of a roundabout that Bettendorf is planning for Phase III of the Forest Grove Drive reconstruction project. CREDIT CITY OF BETTENDORF

“This really is a massive project that just keeps growing,” said Bettendorf City Engineer Brent Morlok, who serves as the project’s co-lead.

Phase IV covers another 600-800 feet of expansion “east of where the federal aid project is going to end,” Mr. Morlok said. He added that Phase III will stop just east of a new roundabout that will replace the traffic lights at Forest Grove and Middle.

As previously reported by the Quad Cities Regional Business Journal, Phase III also includes roundabouts at the intersections of Forest Grove and Championship Drive, and Middle and Competition Drive – which offer direct access into the sports complex and surrounding businesses. Included in the City’s Phase IV wish list is a fourth roundabout at Forest Grove and the not-yet-named access road to the new development.

According to the approved resolution, improvements also include a 49-foot-wide roadway, new storm sewer and a 10-foot-wide recreational trail. HDR’s estimated fees are budgeted “not to exceed $336,100,” according to city documents. The fees will be covered by a contingency fund that was included in Phase III but not utilized.

“With the potential development coming at the northeast corner, we need to carry those improvements a little further to try to get through that first (new) intersection on Forest Grove because we know it’s going to drive that much traffic,” Mr. Morlok said. 

IDOT staffers have told Mr. Morlok and project co-lead Jeff Reiter, Bettendorf’s Economic Development Director, that the new development is eligible for IDOT’s Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy Program (RISE) grant funding. RISE grants “promote economic development through the construction of roads and streets,” according to the IDOT website.

“We’re hopeful. We’ve got a very strong case for the RISE grant,” said Mr. Morlok. “(Phase IV) will be funded locally by the city, whether that’s the remainder that doesn’t get funded through the RISE grant, or if the city has to fund it all ourselves.

“Those improvements will need to be done basically in a couple of years,” he added. “That’ll take another chunk out of what else eventually needs to be done on Forest Grove, with the new school, the new park and the new housing developments planned out there.”

City officials were learned Jan. 11 that Bettendorf is receiving $500,000 from IDOT’s Iowa Clean Air Attainment Program (ICAAP). Bettendorf’s was among 10 projects – and the only Quad Cities project – to share in the $4 million awarded statewide. The program rewards projects that “reduce transportation congestion and air pollution,” according to IDOT’s website.

Bettendorf also appears on the recommended funding list for an additional half-million dollars in support for the roundabouts’ construction from IDOT’s Traffic Safety Improvement Program (TSIP).

I just haven’t seen the official paperwork,” Mr. Morlok said. “But I don’t think there will be any issue with that.”

The city has one existing roundabout at the intersection of Middle and 53rd Street.

“This is a great start,” Mr. Morlok said of the first grant to help defray the city’s $5.5 million portion of the $11.46 million Phase III improvements. “This is a very large project and it was going to be a little tough on the budget, so being able to take $1 million off the city’s load in terms of our contribution really helps.”

The city still is awaiting word from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for a nearly $3 million grant to cover costs for a Pedestrian Bridge spanning Middle Road to the north of the Competition Drive roundabout. The signature feature of the Phase III project would link the current sports complex with the possible expansion across the street to the east. The bridge construction is planned to begin in early 2024 after the roadwork is completed.

Mr. Morlok expects an update in the next two to four weeks. 

The city’s final Phase III plans were submitted on schedule Jan. 18 to IDOT. With an April bid letting, he said construction should begin this spring.

“As part of the submittal, we just finished up all of our necessary right-away and easement acquisition from the adjacent property owners,” Mr. Morlok said. “There were a few properties that we had to buy permanent right away because we didn’t have a wide enough width, and then there were several properties that we had buy temporary construction easements that will let us do some grading and shaping on their property.”

He added that the next step will be to schedule some informational meetings “specifically with the business and property owners out in that area to give them an idea on what the final staging looks like.”  General public meetings will be held once the construction schedule has been firmed up, he added.

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