City officials hear plan for connector roadway on southeast edge of Osky

Ryan Davis and Bhooshan Karnik of McClure Engineering in Clive, Iowa present the planning study to the city council on Monday for the proposed Route 63/Highway 23 southeast connector.

OSKALOOSA — The Oskaloosa City Council heard plans for the first time on Monday about a planning study for a proposed connector roadway on the southeast edge of Oskaloosa.

The roadway would connect Highway 63 at the south side of Oskaloosa to Highway 23 on the southeast side.

The plan was presented by Ryan Davis and Bhooshan Karnik of McClure Engineering in Clive, Iowa.

The planning study was submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the federal government back on May 18. Last week, county officials also heard the presentation. The proposed plan would take three years to complete and would cost an estimated $11 million.

A recreation trail connection would also be constructed. The county has also considered extending the east end of the connector all the way up to Osborne Avenue.

The Highway 63 Coalition had met regularly to lobby for improvements to the highway going all the way back to 2010, and more recently, engineering and environmental studies have been completed to better understand how the problem could be solved.

Highway 92 through Oskaloosa carries more than 12,000 vehicles per day, so the plan seeks to minimize environmental impacts and right-of-way needs.

If the land can be designated as a "certified site," 60-70% of the funding could come from a RISE Grant through the Iowa D.O.T. The RISE Grant request for the project would need to be submitted February 1.

“The RISE Grant will not be a viable option, however, if the City of Oskaloosa and Mahaska County cannot come to an agreement as to how the connector would be funded,” said Davis.

A “certified site” designation requires over 100 checkpoints from the Iowa economic authority to ensure the land is prepared on day one for a prospective developer. Criteria include a negotiated price range for land, the closest highway, available emergency services, etc. It also requires a detailed plan for utilities within nine months of the sale and acquisition of the land.

Currently, there are only 25 certified sites in the state, with the closest one in Ottumwa. Certified sites under 250 acres qualify for 60% in RISE Grant funds, while over 250 acres qualify for 70% funding.

If a portion of the land just north of where the new roadway connects to 23 were also used for the certified site, it would bring the total land usage to more than 250 acres.

The City of Oskaloosa is looking to commit $1.5 million to the total $11 million cost.

Mahaska County Economic Development Director Tom Flaherty discussed the economic impacts and dynamics of constructing the connector from the perspective of attracting new businesses.

“There’s already $5-6 million of new business expansion projected for the coming year, not counting the expansion opportunities this connector could potentially provide,” said Flaherty. “Interpower was the last significant new business prospect the city attracted, and we had a spot for them, and if we were to attract another business like Interpower, we wouldn’t have a place like this potential certified site to put them.”

Jarrod Plants, plant manager for DFS Oskaloosa, discussed potential positive impacts to DFS grain business, which would be situated on the east end of the connector.

“The DFS facility handles 12 million bushels of grain and 300,000 tons of feed per year,” said Plants, “and the grain and feed move in and out of the grain facility 24 tons at a time on the delivery trucks.”

Plant said they move over 73,000 of those delivery trucks inbound and outbound every year, and one of the biggest issues they face is being forced to drive the trucks through town.

“We’re projecting over 2,300 more round trips per year for one customer and 3,200 extra trips for another customer, so the connector could really help us with that prospective expansion, especially since our margins are typically less than one percent,” said Plants. “A connector like this would make it much easier for those who need to get to our facility from points north along route 163.”

Plants said DFS is already in the process of adding $6 million in additional grain storage at their facility.

Davis said he hoped all parties could agree that a connector roadway of this magnitude south of town is needed in the Oskaloosa community.

“I believe that the progress toward the certified site designation could be far enough along by the time the RISE Grant application would be submitted on February 1 that the Iowa D.O.T. would sign off on the certified site approval,” said Davis.

The City council will hold discussions on the planning study at a future meeting.

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