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Highway Investments Drive Economic Future

What is the economic value of an improved highway?  The citizens of Indianola, and much of Warren County, are about to find out this year – twice!

Indianola City Manager Eric Hanson recently suggested that the City’s investment in transportation infrastructure is necessary to provide safety, constant access, and accommodate community growth.

 For months, the City has deemed Highway 65/69 on the north side of Indianola an imminent priority.  Traffic counts along this route have continued to grow, just as Indianola’s population continues to grow.  Also, roughly 80 percent of Warren County’s workforce population travels out of the county for employment, mostly northward, which puts further strain on this area’s infrastructure.

 Too, Summmercrest Hills has become one of the most successful business parks in the Des Moines Metro region, with a total investment closing in on $50 million over the last several years from projects such as new Mercy Medical and UnityPoint clinics, Theisen’s, the YMCA, Greater Iowa Credit Union, Vintage Hills Retirement Living and Cooperative, and Indianola Family Dentistry.  Developers expect even more projects soon.

 This activity has added up to a “perfect storm” on the north side of Indianola.  The City of Indianola has leveraged about $815,000 in grants to help finance the project, but the project is moving forward in large part because Indianola has agreed to fund the lion’s share.

The public has clamored for right-turn lanes off of Highway 65/69 for some time, especially near the automotive dealerships, and for the north and southbound lanes to be level with one another.  Improvements to Hillcrest are also in store, as the shoulders are presently too narrow.  Additional stoplights will be added and the speed limit will likely be reduced, in due time.  The City has visions of extending Hoover from the east and west in the future, which will begin to shape an urban corridor for the community.

Even more interesting for Indianola is that while project ‘bidding and letting’ occurs this April, Highway 92 construction going west from Indianola should be starting about the same time.  The Iowa DOT is currently purchasing right-of-way access for the project.  Detour routes for Indianola residents coming in and out of Indianola will be created during the construction period.  Officials in Indianola’s Community Development office say that minimal widening will occur while shifting Highway 92 to the south to straighten the curves further to the west.  Additionally, sidewalks will be added from the Warren County Fairground entry to Spruce Street, with a recreational trail continuing on the north to county Highway R-63.

 Highway 92 holds much promise for the area’s economic future.  While this stretch does not experience the same degree of traffic volume, Highway 92 is Warren County’s primary east-west connection to Interstate 35, the latter of which runs from Minnesota and Mexico.  This connection enhances Indianola’s appeal to transportation and manufacturing businesses that rely on shipping goods across country.

More locally, Indianola hopes to capture retail leakage from southern areas, a response to local shopping dollars shifting northward to Des Moines and West Des Moines.  The recent ‘Buxton Report’ commissioned by the City of Indianola, and supported by community development partners such as Warren County Economic Development Corporation, estimates that the counties immediately south of Warren County to the Missouri border have $325.8 million in retail sales which are unfilled in the local area (their leakage), sales of which could be fulfilled by communities such as Indianola.  With most of the alternative shopping options being north, could Indianola be that new stopping spot?  An improved Highway 92 can only enhance those opportunities for Indianola and Warren County.

 These 2014 highway investments are setting up to shape Warren County’s economic future in a big way.