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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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SOUTHWEST ARTERIAL. In 1983 the Dubuque City Council approved a route that would begin at U. S. 20 and the Northwest Arterial, join Cedar Cross Road, and then swing west and end at the Bellevue Road and U.S. 151. From then until August 1989, no other major decision about the road had been made. The repaving of Crescent Ridge from Nightengale Lane to North Cascade Road planned for 1990-91 might, according too Mayor James BRADY be skipped in favor of completing the final phase of the Northwest Arterial from Kennedy Road to U. S. 52 at John Deere Road. The city and county in 1989 were working together on a state grant application to finance this project. If that grant was approved, the city was, according to Brady, likely to take the money planned for the Southwest Arterial and use it to fund the local portion of the Northwest Arterial. The Southwest Arterial, according to the mayor, was not on the city's five-year plan. (1)

County supervisors and city council members in 1993 decided to reject the original Southwest Arterial route which ran through part of Dubuque. While a new route was not being suggested, residents in the southern part of the city were concerned that it might come close to TABLE MOUND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. One possible route placed the highway within "a couple of blocks of the school." (2) The possibility of the road running through FDR Park created the possibility of dealing with mining shafts that dotting the park. Officials stated that studies would be made of the roads impact on vegetation, animals, historic sites and noise and air pollution as required by the Iowa Department of Transportation. (3)

City officials announced on January 1, 1997 that the environmental assessment and corridor location study was included in the Iowa Department of Transportation's five year construction plans. WHKS & Company of Mason City was chosen to lead the study which was expected to take eighteen months. The company would conduct interviews with local officials to determine their opinions, determine environmental impacts, and choose a preferred route for the road. The company would also review the last corridor study done in 1985 which had suggested the route should be along Cedar Cross Road. (4)

After the alignment was determined, state officials could consider the road for part of their five-year plan. Local officials would then begin trying to purchase right-of-way. While state officials stated that at best construction would not begin for another seven years, local officials were optimistic that community support could shorten that timeline. (5)

On January 28, 1997 consultants, part of the team doing an environmental impact study of the proposed highway, met with the policy committee of the Dubuque Area Transportation Study. This was the fourth of eight meetings to be held with groups having an interest in the arterial. At the January meeting, those in attendance were asked to share their ideas of the route the road should follow. All but one of the twenty believed the new road should align with the NORTHWEST ARTERIAL. Other questions included how to handle potential intersections with North Cascade, Oakland Farms, and MILITARY ROAD and whether the arterial was to move traffic or encourage economic development of property. The site of ending the arterial resulted in such responses as the intersection of Old Davenport Road and Highway 61/151, midway between Highway 52 and where 61/151 merge and the Lake Eleanor Road and 61/151 intersection. (6)

On February 26, 1997 the proposed corridor of the arterial was reduced from four choices to two. These choices were agreed upon in separate meetings held with the policy committee of the Dubuque Area Metropolitan Transportation Study and the arterial steering committee after receiving input from community leaders and residents who attended eight meetings of small groups. Both routes began at the Northwest Arterial. (7)

The possibility that the Northwest and Southwest arterials might not meet was announced on March 15, 1997. It was then suggested that the Southwest Arterial would be aligned with the extension of Seippel Road. The policy committee of the Dubuque Area Metropolitan Transportation Study voted unanimously to include the new starting point in the second phase of the arterial's location study and environmental assessment. (8)

Diagram of potential corridors. Image courtesy: Telegraph Herald
As of October 1997 two potential corridors remained in the location study--labeled in the illustration as "B" and "C." They began at U. S. 20. There were three ending points on U. S. 151/61. City officials were aware that state engineers would not design the road soon, but made their preferences clear. To allow good traffic flow, there should be above-ground interchanges where the arterial closed other roads. (9)

In April 1998 a route that local leaders had approved would not go through Key West as originally thought, but would displace ten businesses. Beginning near Old Davenport Road, the proposed route would impact a corner of MOUNT OLIVET CEMETERY and the southwest corner of FDR Park. On the north-end of the road, however, it would cause Mike Finnin Motors, Riley Olds-Mazda-Subaru, Rex TV and Appliance, Tires Plus, WHITE FRONT FEED & HATCHERY, Slumberland Furniture, Oak Street, and WORD OF LIFE MINISTRIES to be relocated. Estimates at $5.00 per foot meant the cost of acquiring these properties would be $9 million. (10)

In 2000 after nearly a year of concerns about the effectiveness of the proposed route and its impact on individuals and businesses, a change was ordered. The Iowa Department of Transportation concluded that the new road must connect with Highway 20 further west than had been planned. (11)

In August, 2013 Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation and Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol signed a memorandum of understanding at the Grand River Center. The memorandum stated that the state agency would eventually assume jurisdiction of the roadway. The state would pursue the remaining funding needs of the $135 million four-land roadway that would bypass the heart of the city, divert thousands of trucks from downtown roadways, connect two of Dubuque's INDUSTRIAL PARKS, and connect U. S. 20 to U. S. 151/61. (12)

These mounds of earth mark the site of an archaeological "dig" west of Dubuque in 2013. Federal law in 2013 required an archaeological survey of any lands being excavated for construction. This included the area for the Bee Branch flood prevention project and land just west of Dubuque for new highway construction. "Digs," excavations of sites looking for artifacts in 2012 and 2013 west of Dubuque found remains of hunting camps dating back 7,000 years.

Dueling state and federal lawsuits from the City of Dubuque and the Central Iowa Water Association were aimed in the spring of 2016 to prevent each other from encroaching on the Southwest Arterial corridor. Each of the parties wanted the right to provide water service to the areas the city planned to annex. Central Iowa Water Association officials reported that by June, 2016 the company had spent in excess of $400,000 defending its position. The City of Dubuque had spent nearly $225,000. Dubuque officials had proposed constructing a water main and new pumping station to those requesting it along English Mill Road and eventually North Cascade Road and U. S. 20. This would provide a "closed-loop" system providing water in the Southwest Arterial area. CIWA argued this would infringe on its service area. The issue was to be presented in a non-jury trial set for September 20, 2016. (13)

In July of 2016 six homes and some farm structures were put up for auction which set in the path of the proposed highway. Constructed in the early to mid-1990s, the homes continued to have value. City officials hope they could be sold and moved by the purchasers rather than being torn down. Public auctions were scheduled for Saturday, August 13th at each property which was sold in as-is condition. (14)

The auction resulted in each house receiving multiple bids, except the last one which was sold for $1.00. The home prices received were $57,000; $39,500; $1,000, $1,250; $500.00 and $1.00. Farm buildings brought $600. Even the bid of $1.00 was considered positive because the city would have been faced with paying between $25,000 and $30,000 to demolish the home. (15)

Community leaders gathered on October 11, 2016 near North Cascade Road to celebrate the start of construction of the $151 million Southwest Arterial. Running from U.S. 20 near Seippel Road to U.S. 61/151 south of Old Davenport Road near Business Park, the two land road will eventually be expanded to four lanes. (16)

In May, 2017 an estimated $47 million in construction projects associated with the Southwest Arterial had been completed or were under construction. Another $47 million was expected to go out for bid in December. More than 70% of the 6.1 mile roadway was funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation which in 2016 approved over $100 million in spending from fiscal years 2017 to 2019 to grade, pave and build bridges to complete the project. An estimated $33 million in funding came from federal sources with the City of Dubuque and Dubuque County financing $6.2 million and $3.6 million respectively. The city spent an estimated $16 million to purchase 56 properties to make room for the highway and expected to spent $500,000 on condemnation appeals. The city negotiated purchase agreements with 82 affected property owners, tenants and leaseholders and used eminent domain to take 11 property owners to court through condemnation procedures. (17)

City officials in June 2017 asked Iowa Department of Transportation leaders to fast-track the completion of the arterial. Citing early costs coming in millions of dollars below estimates, the fast-tracking would put an additional $17.4 million in financial support into the 2019 budget. Current plans called for grading four lanes while only paving two in 2019. Paving of the other two lanes would be done in the future. (18)

Unusually dry weather in January, 1918 led to the announcement that work on the project would effect westbound traffic on Highway 30 beginning on January 31st. Westbound traffic was diverted onto a newly constructed interchange ramp to allow construction of a bridge which was part of a new interchange at Seippel Road. (19)

In May, 2018 an announcement was made by Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) officials that plans were being considered for completing all four lanes of the highway at once and an additional $18 million had been added to the project. IDOT received an additional $17.2 million in federal transportation funding as part of the federal budget approved in March. (20) The announcement that the IDOT had approved an accelerated paving schedule was made in June, 2018 with the project coming in $13 million lower than expected in cost. (21)

Progress was announced on the highway in September, 2019. Interchanges where U. S. 20 and the arterial met would be finished and opened to traffic and a realigned Seippel Road would be opened after being closed for nearly three years. The six-mile long, four-land road would connect U. S. 20 at Seippel Road to U. S. 61/151 near Tamarack Business Park. The overpass bridges at the arterial's intersections with both highways were near completion including aesthetic touches such as steel arches and decorative cement. (22)



1. Blocker, Sue. "Southwest Arterial Still on Back Burner," Telegraph Herald, August 14, 1989, p. 1

2. "Eiler, Donnelle. "Southwest Arterial Route Questioned," Telegraph Herald, September 30, 1993, p. 3A

3. Eiler, Donnelle. "SW Arterial Proposal Concerns Residents," Telegraph Herald, July 3, 1993, p. 3A

4. McDermott, Brad. "Study to Step Up Creation of Southwest Arterial," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 1997, p. 2. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970101&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. Ibid.

6. McDermott, Brad. "Consultants Explore Southwest Arterial Routes," Telegraph Herald, January 29, 1997, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970129&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. McDermott, Brad. "2 Routes, 3 End Points Remain in Study," Telegraph Herald, February 27, 1997, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970227&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. McDermott, Brad. "Arterials Might Not Meet," Telegraph Herald, March 15, 1997, p. 1. Online: Dubuque Area Metropolitan Transportation Study

9. McDermott, Brad. "Wheels Turning: 2003 Might See a Road," Telegraph Herald, October 5, 1997, p. 3F. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19971004&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

10. Wilkinson, Jennifer. "Businesses in Arterial's Path," Telegraph Herald, April 2, 1998, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980402&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

11. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2001, p. 33

12. Jacobson, Ben. "It's Downhill From Here for Southwest Arterial," Telegraph Herald, August 10, 2013, p. 1

13. Barton, Thomas A. "A Turf War Over Water," Telegraph Herald, June 26, 2016, p. 1

14. Descorbeth, Shirley. "Dubuque to Hold House Auctions for Southwest Arterial Road Project," KWWL.com. Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/32583088/2016/07/31/dubuque-to-hold-house-auctions-for-southwest-arterial-project

15. "City of Dubuque Auctions off 6 Homes," Telegraph Herald, August 16, 2016, p. 6B

16. "Southwest Arterial Project to Hit Accelerator," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2017, p. 78

17. Barton, Thomas J. "Southwest Arterial Shaping Up," Telegraph Herald, May 2, 2017, p. 1A

18. Montgomery, Jeff. "City: Finish Arterial in 2019," Telegraph Herald, June 15, 2017, p. 1A

19. Hogstrom, Erik. "U. S. Detour Starts Wednesday," Telegraph Herald, January 30, 2018, p. 1A

20. Barton, Thomas J. "SW Arterial Plan: Pave 4 Lanes in 2019," Telegraph Herald, May 9, 2018, p. 1A

21. Yager, Alicia. "State OKs 4 Lanes for SW Arterial," Telegraph Herald, June 13, 2018, p. 1A

22. Fisher, Benjamin, "SW Arterial Shaping Up," Telegraph Herald, September 6, 2019, p. 1A