In order to ensure that the residents of Central Iowa and its visitors can access the vibrant amenities of our region, we need to maintain and improve existing infrastructure, fund and develop new infrastructure, and proactively embrace emerging technologies.
Central Iowa has prioritized fixing current issues and optimizing the existing transportation system as opposed to expanding capacity. This approach allows Central Iowa to take a more holistic view of transportation and mobility focused on enhancing accessibility, better linking transportation to housing and jobs, enhancing social justice and equity, and providing benefits for young talent looking for more transit-enabled mobility and dense, walkable urban node and corridors.
Current blueprints make clear connections between land use planning, zoning, housing policy, and transportation infrastructure to achieve preferred development patterns. Bringing these established plans together under a more unified framework to inform and advance Central Iowa’s future growth will be critical to fulfilling goals for a more sustainable and human-scale built environment.
The Iowa Soil and Water Future Task Force released their report after capturing input from more than 115 advisory committee members. The report recommends that the primary pathway to success is public/private investment in the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, by identifying ten recommendations for addressing the goals of the Strategy. The report is available online.
By 2050, the region expects to see a significant population increase; however, road conditions and uncongested commutes will remain the same. In Central Iowa, we pride ourselves in having an uncongested roadway system where drivers report minimal stress while driving during peak commuter times. While the road network provides efficient commutes and creates conveniences for motorists, this oversupply of capacity hinders the further development of other transportation modes. Poor bridge conditions, a growing yet underused transit system, an aging public transportation fleet, deteriorating pavement conditions, and freight impediments counter the short travel times in our community.
The region must invest in a complete transportation system, beyond one geared solely towards automobiles, if it is to become a more sustainable region. New and enhanced infrastructure should advance an integrated, multimodal transportation system that provides mobility benefits while contributing to improved health and well-being, equity, talent development, economic development, smart land uses, and other factors.
Regional transportation officials encourage a “fix it first” mentality for roads. This means encouraging governments to prioritize the protection of prior investments, like our roadways, and to improve upon their current conditions, especially safety and reliability. Maintenance is not limited to roads and bridges. Some expense goes into maintaining and replacing transit infrastructure, particularly vehicles. Additionally, the freight and goods transport network within Greater Des Moines should be safe, reliable, and efficient.
Create a non-partisan Mobility Alliance as a business-led partnership to advance multimodal mobility in Central Iowa
Ensure efficient use of existing transportation investments
Multiple studies have shown that people are increasingly seeking pedestrian-scale, walkable neighborhoods and activity districts with access to public transportation as their communities of choice; this is true of both urban and suburban districts. Along with The Tomorrow Plan and Mobilizing Tomorrow, Capital Crossroads envisions shifting back to a more historical model due to changing demographics, travel patterns, and rates of car ownership. This goal supports a greater mix of transportation choices, including a robust transit network, an active carpool culture, and land use and design that support walkability. These efforts will promote activity in our neighborhoods as well as inclusivity.
Implement strategies to encourage mobility alternatives
Manage parking to ensure efficient use of existing parking, market demand, and impacts on travel behavior
Advance and swiftly transition key policies into implementation mode
Though transit usage is increasing in Greater Des Moines, the region’s largely suburban and rural orientation and relative lack of congestion make implementation of large-scale transit improvements a constant challenge. The simple fact is that Greater Des Moines currently does not have the densities necessary to significantly expand transit in regional mobility strategies. However, transit expansion is key to Greater Des Moines’ ability to retain and attract top talent.
Matching transit service with where people live and work is the best way to maximize access and to operate a system most efficiently. It also is important that the transit stops are accessible by bicycle and by foot. In both the short- and long-term, the geography of future development across the region should align with the region’s transit routes and link to bicycle and pedestrian networks.
Provide ongoing support for implementation of DART Forward 2035
Support development patterns and land uses necessary for public transit to thrive
Embrace emerging technologies and opportunities to coordinate with other modes
Facilitate transit connectivity of key local, regional, and external nodes and markets
In its current configuration, the 68-year old passenger terminal at the Des Moines International Airport (DSM) is not sufficient to accommodate today’s modern aircraft or the airport’s ever-increasing passenger volume. After multiple studies and iterations, the Des Moines Airport Authority Board voted unanimously in October 2016 to build a new $500 million, 14-gate terminal on the east side of the airport adjacent to the current facility, roughly $140 million cheaper than the originally proposed south side location.
Tourism officials believe a new terminal is critical to Central Iowa’s competitiveness for leisure travelers and major conventions and trade shows.
Proceed with the timely construction of the new passenger terminal
Consider efforts to regionalize the Des Moines Airport Authority
Freight networks impact the overall effectiveness of the regional transportation system. A number of transportation-related impediments prevent the freight distribution system from operating at peak efficiency and should be considered in holistic mobility strategies.
Following a recommendation in the original Capital Crossroads plan for a multimodal transload facility in Central Iowa to significantly enhance the region’s competitive position for the logistics industry, the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and its Freight Roundtable received a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation to conduct a study for a Des Moines area rail port facility. The study confirmed the need for a transloading facility and recommended a 20-acre city-owned site in southeast Des Moines.
Design and promote a regional multimodal transload facility
It is essential that we share and promote the vitality of our region in order to encourage economic, cultural, and entrepreneurial growth. We must focus our efforts on enhancing our resources to build on and add new destination amenities to support growth in tourism and promote talent attraction and retention. While the following strategies and tactics are incorporated under the Physical Capital, they have equivalent applicability to the Natural Capital framework.
Central Iowa’s ambition is to be the “parks and trails capital of the world.” Recent efforts have sought to complement the region’s construction of land trails with the development of a comprehensive network of water trails, providing an abundant network of water recreation along 150 miles of the region’s creeks and rivers, including places for tubing, birding, hiking, paddling, boating, and fishing; the establishment of area greenways; floodplain protection; and, improved habitats. The plan covers the Des Moines, Raccoon, South Skunk, North and Middle rivers, as well as Beaver, Fourmile, Mud and Walnut creeks.
Capital Crossroads has also launched a cross-Capital effort to address Central Iowa’s trails, greenways, and parks and recreation system. The effort aims to bring the existing network of parks, trails, streams, and more together to help bridge the gap between our natural, cultural, and agricultural assets. This is a two-pronged approach: Mapping an analysis of creeks, streams, parks, trails, buffers, and parcel ownership supported by a Growing Green Communities grant, and a regional branding effort.
Develop and connect Central Iowa’s network of land trails
Build an extensive system of regional water trails
Originally opened in 1925, Drake Stadium in Des Moines has been renovated regularly since that time, most significantly in 2005. In the summer of 2016, new turf was installed and the track surface was replaced. Despite these renovations, the stadium requires additional refurbishment in order to be legitimately considered as a host for the U.S. Olympic Trials in track and field. Raising Drake Stadium to world-class standards would be a boon for Drake University, the Drake Relays, and the prospects for sports tourism in Central Iowa.
Continue major renovations to Drake Stadium
Youth sports tournaments are big business for communities across the country. Each event brings families to the area from across the state and, potentially, nation to spend multiple days watching matches, staying at local hotels, and shopping at area businesses. Because they are so lucrative, the competition to host these tournaments is fierce. In order to even be in consideration for many of the largest tournaments, a region must possess suitable infrastructure and resources to accommodate the scale of such events. Of course, there also are major benefits to the general public of a tournament-caliber indoor sports complex. When not hosting tournaments, these facilities will be available for public use.
Secure commitments and resources to develop a tournament-caliber indoor sports facility in Central Iowa
Cities quickly are becoming the country’s most dynamic test beds for cutting-edge technologies that promise change for people’s everyday lives, mobility, and interactivity with their communities. Facilitating these advancements are lightning-fast speeds and capacities necessary to not only accommodate smart urban infrastructure but also the communications needs of businesses and residents.
A key strategy incorporated into Capital Crossroads during the mid-course review process was the implementation of gigabit internet connection speeds across the region. This effort received a considerable boost when Mediacom Communications announced it plans to start rolling out 1 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) internet speeds to its residential customers by the end of 2016.
Typically, the pattern is for dense urbanized areas to have access to gigabit connectivity before more spread out suburban and rural communities. The country’s largest cities also have advantages over smaller areas because their customer base is high enough to warrant gigabit-speed investments by for-profit communications providers. Our efforts in the Physical Capital will be to identify the means to secure gigabit internet, whether through privately funded, public-private, or through public funding.
Identify viable means to secure gigabit internet for Central Iowa communities (BP23)
Transportation for America envisions Smart City technology infrastructure and data analytics as tools to combat urban challenges such as congestion, economic inequality, and pollution in new and more efficient ways to create vibrant, attractive, inclusive, and prosperous communities. They recommend that cities be willing to launch pilot projects, test ideas, learn from those experiments, and be willing to share the results, even when they fail.
The challenge for Central Iowa communities seeking to research and implement Smart City strategies is that they are tremendously expensive. The areas that are proceeding with development of these systems are leveraging public-private partnerships to fund assessments and, ultimately, construction and operation of new technologies and processes.
Launch a coordinated Smart City initiative (BP24)
One of Greater Des Moines’s key competitive advantages is its high quality of life. The region is consistently recognized for its affordability, access to the outdoors, and family-friendly atmosphere. However, our region faces challenges with impediments to fair housing, the area’s car-centered transportation system, and decreasing levels of physical activity. For residents to be able to truly enjoy the high quality of life for which Greater Des Moines is known, health and well-being, in all senses of those terms, need to be actively promoted throughout the region.
Greater Des Moines already contains many different kinds of neighborhoods ranging from agricultural homestead areas to suburban neighborhoods to urban areas to downtowns comprised of apartments. Each neighborhood offers a different set of housing options, amenities, economic opportunities, and general character. Having this range ensures that Greater Des Moines can accommodate many different lifestyle preferences.
Our region is known for its affordability. A portion of the area’s perceived affordability is the low price of housing compared to other regions of the country. Another portion of the region’s affordability is typically identified as the low cost of transportation, partly due to short commute times and low levels of congestion. The desire to maintain affordability for all residents in the face of anticipated growth necessitates equal access to housing opportunities and consideration of housing location in relation to the job centers they serve, especially near service industry job centers and near public transit routes. Housing Tomorrow recommendations call for the creation of incentives and the reduction of barriers for developers to provide units for households earning less than 30 percent of the region’s median income. The plan also prescribes the use of funds to enhance transportation near affordable housing.
Build “missing middle” housing types
Implement Housing Tomorrow to address regional affordable housing needs
Promote infill development and the rehabilitation of vacant structures
Develop vibrant neighborhoods and communities