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Iowa DOT plans to bring ramp metering to I-235

The Iowa DOT recommends adding ramp meters for westbound travel from 2nd Avenue to 63rd Street and for eastbound travel from 50th Street to 63rd Street.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) is exploring options to make the commute on I-235 easier and safer. One of those options they're exploring is adding ramp metering. It's never been done before in Iowa. 

According to Ben Hucker, the traffic operations engineer for District 1 for Iowa DOT, said the closest cities that utilize ramp metering are Kansas City and Minneapolis.

"Every year with the exception of 2020 because of COVID-19," said Hucker, "We see the amount of traffic go up every year, and ramp metering is one way we hope to improve the flow of traffic and keep drivers safe."

Credit: Iowa Department of Transportation
The Iowa Dept. of Transportation in partnership with the Integrated Corridor Management Program explain what they say are the benefits of adding ramp metering to I-235.

According to data from the Iowa DOT in partnership with the Integrated Corridor Management Program, 90% of crashes on I-235 during peak hours are rear-ending and sideswipe crashes. Hucker said these kinds of crashes occur most frequently where cars merge onto the interstate.

Credit: Iowa Department of Transportation
The Iowa Department of Transportation provided Local 5 this image to explain to commuters how to use ramp meters.

So what is ramp metering? As Hucker describes it, it entails adding a traffic light to merge lanes to control the flow of merging traffic. During peak hours, the lights will be active and only allow one car to every few seconds. 

"One car every few seconds will allow for much easier and safer merging for not only the merging traffic going onto the freeway but also for the mainline traffic," said Hucker.

According to their data, ramp metering could reduce them by 41%. The Iowa DOT is recommending adding ramp meters for westbound travel from 2nd Avenue to 63rd Street in Des Moines and for eastbound travel from 50th Street in West Des Moines to 63rd Street.

The Iowa DOT estimates this project could cost anywhere from seven to $10 million but could save the state billions compared to the alternative.

"We've estimated it'll save close to two billion dollars over adding more lanes to I-235," said Hucker.

The Iowa DOT in partnership with the Integrated Corridor Management Program is still in the planning and research phase of the project. Hucker said construction may not begin until the summer of 2023.

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