The drought conditions this year have hurt crops and damaged some lawns, but the situation allowed Iowa road construction crews to finish projects weeks in advance. Mark Bortle, with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says the reconstruction of a six-and-a-half mile stretch of Interstate 380 in Waterloo, for example, was completed one month ahead of schedule.
“A lot of our other projects, because they haven’t had rain delays, have been completed,” Bortle said. “In a normal year, we’re trying to get them buttoned up at this time. This season, because of the dry weather, we’ve been able to get ’em buttoned up in October as opposed to early November.”
Road crews not only benefited from the drought this summer, they were able to begin work in early March rather than late April because of the milder than usual winter. “We basically gained a month on the Spring end and a month on the Fall end with the good weather,” Bortle said.
Many contractors have requested they be allowed to start on major projects that aren’t even slated to begin until next year. The DOT has denied most of those requests to avoid impacting traffic over the winter. “We don’t want to get into a situation where we’re partly ready to go and not being able to get (the road) in a safe condition,” Bortle said.
“So, most of the contracts that’ve been let this Fall with start dates of next Spring we haven’t allowed them to start early because of the uncertainty of the weather conditions.” Through the end of September, the Iowa D.O.T. had spent $435 million dollars on road construction projects this year.
Bortle said that compares to just $340 million over the same period last year and it’s a direct result of the dry weather.