I-80 rest stop near Grinnell. (DOT photo)

Long-term plans are for portions of Interstate-80 in Iowa to expand to six lanes. Stu Anderson, director of the Transportation Development Division at the Iowa DOT, says in some areas, freight — hauled by semis — accounts for 40 percent of the traffic on I-80.

“There some areas that will require six lane improvements, primarily in eastern Iowa initially,” he says. “The Commission has programmed some funding to do some of that work east of Iowa City, continuing all the way to Davenport and the Illinois River we’ll be looking at making those improvements eventually and probably working its way to Des Moines. Western Iowa the traffic is a little lower, so that will take some time, but definitely, I-80 and even I-35 in some stretches will need some major improvement.”

Some new bridge decks on I-80 in eastern Iowa have been widened. Anderson says bridges have a very long life span, so bridge work on I-80 is being done with the future in mind. Anderson says transportation planners are also tracking how automated vehicles that drive themselves may impact the interstates that run through Iowa.

“That could alleviate some of those capacity needs as you have vehicles that can drive closer together, maybe have narrower lanes,” he says, “so that might really have some influence in the next 20 years as well.”

But to deal with current capacity issues, drivers in eastern Iowa are noticing the ongoing project to rehabilitate and widen the interstate that feeds into I-80 near Coralville.

“The Interstate-380 corridor between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City has been a real priority corridor because of the huge demand from the commuting traffic and safety issues,” Anderson says.

That interchange is being built to handle future projects that would add lanes to I-80 in that area according to Anderson.

“The I-80/380 interchange is a really good example of an important project because of the freight movement on that corridor,” Anderson says. “The existing interchange just had challenges with weaving movements that caused problems for semi trucks.”

About 4500 bridges in Iowa are rated in poor condition — in need of repairs and upgrades. Anderson says state officials have been using part of the money from the state gas tax increase that took effect in early 2015 to fix bridges and just 32 bridges on the state system are rated in poor condition today..

Anderson says bridges with a poor condition rating are still safe for traffic, but have issues that need to be addressed. The DOT does an in-depth review of the state’s transportation system every five years and will submit that report to the governor and legislators later this year. Anderson made his comments during a recent appearance on Iowa PBS’s Iowa Press.