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Iowa DOT Raising Sections Of I-29 To Make It Tougher To Flood

Iowa DOT has had to close sections of I-29 several times this year because of flooding from the swollen Missouri River.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is raising some sections of Interstate 29 north of Council Bluffs to keep traffic moving even when the Missouri River is at flood stage.
Transportation officials have awarded a $3.3 million contract to Western Engineering Company to add 14 inches of asphalt to northbound I-29 from Honey Creek to Loveland, which is a 1-mile stretch. More than 2 feet of asphalt will be added in both directions to a 1,000-foot stretch near Blackbird Marsh. The contractor will also add 2 inches of asphalt to southbound I-29 just north of Crescent, a 900-foot stretch. Additionally, they'll construct a crossover just south of Loveland so the Iowa DOT can run traffic in both directions on the raised northbound lanes during flooding.

Flooding from the Missouri River closed parts of I-29 in southwest Iowa four times this year. Since I-29 is in the floodplain, Iowa DOT Traffic Operations Engineer Austin Yates said there are some “critical gaps” in protection. But raising parts of I-29 near Honey Creek, Crescent, and Blackbird Marsh mean the river will have to rise higher to inundate the roadway, and it can stay open longer, he said.

“We’re not going to close bits and pieces of it and basically expect people to have to figure out what’s closed, what’s open,” Yates said.

Raising these sections of I-29 will allow the river to impact parts of I-29 and I-680 around the same level, Yates said. The Iowa DOT expects to close I-680 from North Omaha, Neb. to I-29 near Crescent if the Missouri River reaches 31 feet or higher.

Yates added the road won’t be flood-proof, but water won’t spill onto it at such a low river level like it did in September.

“If all this work had been done in March, we still would’ve had to close I-29,” said Yates, acknowledging the major to historic March flooding across southwest Iowa. “But we would not have had to close it in September or in June, for example.” 

The Iowa DOT expects work to be done by Dec. 1.

Flooding closed a stretch of of I-29 in Pottawattamie County from March 14 to May 18, and again from May 28 to June 17. A third round of flooding closed it from late September to Oct. 4 and from Oct. 6 to Oct. 7. I-29 in Mills and Fremont counties were also closed for the March and June floods, but not the September floods.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.