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Iowa’s Top Transportation Challenges

Posted by Content Coordinator on Friday, February 20th, 2015


Executive Summary

Iowa’s extensive system of roads, bridges, and highways provides the state’s residents, visitors and businesses with a high level of mobility. This transportation system forms the backbone that supports the state’s economy. Iowa’s surface transportation system enables the state’s residents and visitors to travel to work and school, visit family and friends, and frequent tourist and recreation attractions while providing its businesses with reliable access to customers, materials, suppliers and employees.

However, the state faces numerous challenges in providing a transportation system that is safe, well-maintained, efficient and adequately funded. As Iowa works to retain its businesses, maintain its level of economic competitiveness and achieve further economic growth, the state will need to maintain and modernize its roads, highways and bridges by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient and reliable mobility for motorists and businesses. Making needed improvements to Iowa’s roads, highways and bridges could also provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by creating jobs in the short term and stimulating long term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.

Iowa must improve its system of roads, highways and bridges to foster economic growth and keep businesses in the state. In addition to economic growth, transportation improvements are needed to ensure safe, reliable mobility and quality of life for all residents. Meeting Iowa’s need to modernize and maintain its system of roads, highways and bridges will require a significant boost in local, state and federal funding.

The federal government is a critical source of funding for Iowa’s surface transportation system. Congress recently approved an eight-month extension of the federal surface transportation program, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), which provides the state with road, highway, bridge and transit funding through May 31, 2015.

Meeting Iowa’s need to further improve and modernize its system of roads, rails and public transit will for require that the recent state funding boost is maintained and that a long-term, reliably funded, federal surface transportation program is approved.

TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGE: Deteriorated Pavement Conditions

A lack of adequate state and local funding has resulted in increasingly deteriorated pavement conditions, providing a rough ride and costing motorist in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC).

  • Twenty-seven percent of Iowa’s major urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while an additional 50 percent of the state’s major urban roads are rated in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 23 percent are rated in in good condition.
  • Thirteen percent of Iowa’s rural roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while an additional 45 percent of the state’s rural roads are rated in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 42 percent are rated in in good condition.

TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGE: Large Share of Deficient Bridges

More than a quarter of locally and state-maintained bridges in Iowa show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment. This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length.

  • Twenty-one percent of Iowa’s bridges are structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks and emergency services vehicles.
  • There are a total of 5,022 structurally deficient bridges in Iowa, the second highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the nation, behind only Pennsylvania.
  • Five percent of Iowa’s bridges are functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
  • In the Des Moines area, 11 percent of bridges are structurally deficient and 13 percent are functionally obsolete.

Download full version (PDF): Iowa’s Top Transportation Challenges

About TRIP
Founded in 1971, TRIP ® of Washington, DC, is a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues. TRIP is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers; businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction; labor unions; and organizations concerned with efficient and safe surface transportation.

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