National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Phase 1 of the Iowa City Gateway project was the completion of a federally required planning process called for in the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. NEPA is required for projects that will seek federal funds and/or federal permits.Through that process, the team evaluated how various design alternatives impact the Iowa River and its floodplain, as well as impacts to nearby properties and community resources. Phase 1 included many opportunities for community input and was completed at the end of 2013.  (Required reviews from state and federal agencies extended the original schedule.) Phase 1 recommended an approach for improvements call the Preferred Alternative.

Beyond legal requirements, however, the NEPA process helps governmental agencies and local communities make well-informed decisions about future projects. Additionally, the process gives the community (1) access to information used by agencies in selecting a preferred alternative and (2) a chance to have input into those public decisions. The NEPA process requires that the following questions be answered before they receive federal approval:

  • What is the problem? What is needed? The study’s Purpose and Need serves as a guide throughout the evaluation process.
  • How might the improvement impact the natural environment like water, air and threatened and endangered species?
  • How might the improvement project impact neighborhoods and businesses? How would historic or archaeological sites be impacted? How would economically disadvantaged groups be affected?
  • How would the proposed improvement work? Does it address the Purpose and Need? What will it cost construct and to maintain

Following federal approval of the NEPA document, detailed design work began in the summer of 2014. Phase 2 was completed in February of 2016 with the submittal of final plans to the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).  

Documents and Resources

October 1, 2013 Council presentation and information packet

September 17, 2013 Council presentation and information packet

Other Project documents

Project overview
Project schedule
What is NEPA?
Flooding in the Corridor
July 2011 public meeting materials
March 2011 public meeting materials
December 2011 preliminary alternatives drop-in center and online community comments

Past public meetings and information

Pre-design meeting - February 25, 2014

The pre-design meeting included a drop-in center from 4 to 7 p.m. and a formal presentation and questions and answer session at 5:30 p.m. Nearly 100 people participated in the meeting.

Exhibits
Presentation

Public Hearing and EA recommendations - April 4, 2013

The April 4 Iowa City Gateway public hearing included a drop-in center from 4:30 to 6 p.m., and a formal presentation and question and answer session at 6:30 p.m.  At the meeting, the roughly 45 attendees had an opportunity to learn about the project process and provide input regarding the Environmental Assessment (EA) document, the preferred alternative, and corridor needs. The attendees could also ask questions of the design team and City staff, see a short presentation about the project and provide formal comments about the recommendations in the EA. 

Hearing transcript
Public hearing presentation
Public hearing handout

Preliminary alternatives - November and December, 2011

Because of wide public interest in the project, the City of Iowa City added an additional opportunity for the community to review and provide input into draft alternatives. The alternatives were posted on the project website on November 25, and visitors to the website were provided with a link to provide comments through December 30, in addition to submitting comments directly via the project website. For those who wanted to review maps, ask questions or submit comments in person, Iowa City hosted a drop-in center from 3:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2011 at the Robert A. Lee Community Center in Iowa City.

Input on Preliminary Alternatives: This document summarizes information about the drop-in center and includes comments made on the preliminary alternatives via the online comment form, e-mail and those submitted at the December 8 drop-in center.

Second public meeting - July 13, 2011

This meeting was held with an open house session, as well as a presentation and question and answer session.

Meeting Handout: Summarizes the project, progress to date and other open-house material.
Flooding in the Corridor: Outlines flooding issues in the corridor.
Meeting Presentation: Summarizes the project, progress to date and issues under study.
Meeting Exhibits: Open house displays and exhibits.
Meeting Summary:  Public meeting activities, comments and questions. 

First public meeting - March 3, 2011

This meeting was held with an open house session and a presentation. Questions and answers were documented via flip charts at the map and exhibit stations.

Meeting Handout: Summarizes information about the project, the need for improvements and the schedule.
Meeting Presentation: Provides a project overview.
Meeting Exhibits: Exhibits from the public meeting.
Comments and Flip Charts: Comments and questions from the exhibits stations. 
Meeting Summary: Summary of the meeting, as well as comments and questions received immediately following that meeting.

Council documents

March 23, 2015 information packet
July 15, 2014 presentation to Council
July 11, 2014 information packet
April 11, 2014 information packet
April 4, 2014 Design Element spreadsheet
March 27, 2014 information packet

March 26, 2014 City Council information packet

Council presentation
Traffic memo

March 20, 2014 City Council information packet

Gateway Project Design elements memo
Arterial Street Lane Width Comparison
Pre-Design Public Meeting Summary
Conceptual Project Renderings
Conceptual Project Cross Sections
Conceptual Project Typical Sections
Conceptual Project Park Road Bridge Elevations

February 26, 2014

Pre-Design Meeting: The Conceptual Design for improvements to Dubuque Street and replacement of the Park Road Bridge has been revised, based on design parameters established by the City Council in January, 2014.

Thanks to the nearly 100 people who participated in the Drop-In Center on February 25.

The conceptual design shows the new, reduced footprint of the project, based on council direction from January, 2014.

Exhibits
Presentation

January 23, 2014

On January 21, 2014, the City Council discussed the project during the informal work session and approved design parameters for the Iowa City Gateway Project at the formal meeting. Those primary design parameters for the project are: Protection level for Dubuque Street will be the 100-year flood elevation plus one foot, Backwater Reduction Goal (low steel elevation) for the Park Road Bridge will be the 200-year flood elevation plus one foot and the structural type for the bridge will be a Through Arch.

Renderings of the selected alternatives

The primary design parameters for the project are:

Protection level for Dubuque Street will be the 100-year flood elevation plus one foot.

Backwater Reduction Goal (low steel elevation for the Park Road Bridge will be the 200-year flood elevation plus one foot.

The structural type for the bridge will be a Through Arch.

Presentation to Council
Summary of the discussion and decisions from the City Council work session and formal meeting

January 17, 2014

The public was invited to attend the January 21, 2014 City Council meeting.  A brief presentation was made at the 5 p.m. work session, followed by City Council questions and project discussion.  A resolution has been placed on the Agenda for the 7 p.m. City Council Meeting. The City Council is being asked to establish the following three design parameters:  (1) the level of protection for Dubuque Street, (2) the backwater reduction goal (elevation of the Park Road Bridge), and (3) the structural type of the bridge.  City staff has recommended that the design parameters be:  (1) protect Dubuque Street to the 2008 flood elevation plus one foot and, (2) provide backwater reduction by elevating the low steel of the new bridge to the 200-year flood plus one foot and, (3) proceed with either the Through Arch Bridge or the Deck Girder Bridge.  The public will be able to comment during the discussion of the Agenda item.

Council information packet
Presentation to Council

December 19, 2013

The City of Iowa City has received notification from the Iowa Department of Transportation that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved and signed the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Iowa City Gateway Project. The approval was dated December 18, 2013. The FONSI is the final step in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The project is now cleared to move forward in the design process.

View the FONSI document

Design parameters for the Gateway Project was discussed by the City Council on January 21, 2014. 

November, 2013 Update

At the request of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) document has been submitted for review. The Iowa DOT will review the document and then submit it to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for final review and approval. Federal approval of the FONSI represents the final step in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

At this time, Iowa City has not been made aware of a final resolution to the Section 106 process requests made by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to the FHWA.

City Council Review

The Iowa City Council is in the process of reviewing the project to establish parameters for design.  At a work session on September 17, 2013 the Council heard a presentation from city staff and the design consultant.  An overview of the Environmental Assessment/NEPA process and the Preferred Alternative was given before moving on to discuss the Design Decisions that will need to be made by the City Council prior to final design and engineering. These decisions include: the level of protection for Dubuque Street, backwater reduction goals and structural type of the bridge.

A range of options was provided and, based on preliminary design information, cost estimates, roadway elevations and water surface elevations were provided. The “Do Nothing” option was addressed as well, which includes many needed improvements to the aging infrastructure in the corridor.

September 17, 2013 presentation to Council 
Council information packet

The City Council continued to review the Iowa City Gateway project at their October 1, 2013 work session.  That same night, there was an agenda item for public input on the project at the 7 p.m. formal Council meeting.  Staff outlined recommendations in a presentation and then opened the floor for public comment.  Additionally, staff made note of questions from the public and will follow up with discussion and responses in a future council information packet/session.

October 1, 2013 Presentation to Council
Council information packet 

Environmental Assessment Review Status

The Federal Highway Administration has indicated that their process for responding to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will not be complete prior to the October 1 City Council meeting. Formal council action regarding design parameters will not occur until after the NEPA process is complete.

The Iowa City Gateway Environmental Assessment

The City of Iowa City has studied potential solutions to minimize flood impacts on Dubuque Street and Park Road, reduce backwater created by Park Road Bridge and make needed infrastructure improvements in the corridor.

Recommendations for those improvements, as well as potential adverse and beneficial impacts to the community, buildings and the natural environment are detailed in the Iowa City Gateway Environmental Assessment (EA).

See draft renderings of the final project
Maps of the recommendations  
Environmental Assessment document
Public meeting transcript
Comments submitted during the official comment period