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Revitalizing Cedar Rapids Infrastructure & Community Development

A planning initiative performed in the community of Cedar Rapids identified a critical need for better connections and smoother traffic flow between the Kingston Village Neighborhood and the downtown district. Additionally, the initiative focused on planning aesthetic enhancements that would promote connections between neighborhoods and regions within the city while preserving each area’s distinct characteristics. To start this endeavor, the Snyder & Associates team designed several projects to revitalize the First Avenue and 6th Street corridors, facilitating new development and enhanced safety features for the public.

Improving Connectivity, Safety, Resiliency & Sustainability

The construction of a new arterial street joining Ellis Boulevard and 6th Street aims to enhance overall connectivity within the downtown. The new street introduces two new roundabouts along with additional safety enhancements. The design for converting the traditional intersections into roundabouts was carefully planned to fit within the existing right-of-way and city-owned property. This approach minimized disruptions to current features such as sidewalks, landscaping, and nearby commercial buildings. It also eliminated the need for the city to acquire additional property and maximized the potential for future redevelopment.

Roundabouts Streamline Traffic Flow

Roundabouts Streamline Traffic Flow with Efficient Traffic Circulation

The addition of roundabouts decreases travel times, resulting in less time spent in vehicles for drivers and reduced emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment and enhancing safety. Research indicates that roundabouts generally offer greater safety than traditional four-way stops or signalized intersections. Collaborating with the city, our engineers provided documentation illustrating how roundabout designs could enhance safety, leading to the city being awarded Traffic Safety Improvement Program (TSIP) Funding for the project.

The 1st Avenue Rehabilitation project incorporated additional safety enhancements, including reconfigured travel lanes and raised median layouts to bolster traffic safety and regulate access to potential activity hubs. This effort encompassed milling existing pavement, applying an asphalt overlay, installing new pavement markings and signage, reconstructing accessible pedestrian sidewalk ramps, and replacing traffic signal equipment along the corridor.

The 1st Avenue W stretch of roadway from Cedar River to 6th Street and the new connection from 6th Street to Ellis Boulevard are vital arterial corridors within Cedar Rapids. Extending these streets is anticipated to stimulate investment in the neighborhood severely affected by floods in 2008.

A notable surge in investment interest is evident, as plans for the new 1st and 1st development projects have been unveiled and are well underway. This initiative aims to enhance attractions and amenities in the western downtown Cedar Rapids area. It includes a hotel, residential options, the Pickle Palace Pickleball Court, a restaurant, and a Big Grove Brewing establishment.

Working Together as a Team

1st Ave & 6th Street Intersection facing North Before & After Construction

1st Ave & 6th Street Intersection facing North Before & After Construction

Planners labeled this project as “complex” due to its multifaceted nature, which included several key components: reconstructing 6th Street NW and Ellis Boulevard NW, creating a new corridor between these two streets, constructing new roundabouts in place of traditional intersections, increasing safety measures at railroad crossings, replacing traffic signals at multiple intersections, and implementing enhancements to a ramp on Interstate 380. Planning for these projects necessitated extensive communication with various stakeholders, including community leaders, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), developers, business owners, church leaders, utility owners, the flood control system design team, and residents and business owners in the project vicinity.

Looking ahead, Cedar Rapids anticipates a promising era of growth and progress in the downtown region driven by the revitalization efforts spurred by this initiative. With a steadfast focus on resilience in overcoming past challenges, the city is poised to address the deficiencies in its infrastructure and cultivate vibrant spaces that promote connectivity and prosperity for all its residents.