New Iowa City transportation hub nears completion in less than a year

Just four years after the Iowa City main terminal underwent massive $750 million construction and made headlines worldwide, the former World Trade Center site is about to do the same thing.

Phase 1 of $1.8 billion World Trade Center Downtown Alliance Metro project is nearly finished and just nine miles south of the old city. With the completion of this project, a smaller bus terminal will also be built, not too far away from the central city.

When completed, expect a sleek and open system, similar to New York City’s subway.

“The project has four legs: fixed rail, bus terminal, freight terminal and parking garage,” Mayor Mark Weinberg said, adding the $1.4 billion freight terminal and its connections with the rest of I-41 will be completed in time for the 2020 trade season.

The new Midtown Financial Center is just around the corner.

It will be completed in the early summer with 28 luxury lofts built on a 17-story former bank building.

Construction crews and workers have gone through six windstorms in the last four years, depending on the season. Last spring, winds gusting up to 100 mph had crews repairing the roof and the massive construction project underway.

Weinberg said that on average, one worker is injured every week at the station’s base in the plaza area. The number on site has dropped from about 500 to 250 since 2014.

“You’re moving employees all throughout the day and so people need to be protected and people need to be protected by the overall layout and the design and then once that structure and that geometry is in place it becomes incumbent upon the design team to work with us to make sure those safety systems and the workforce is constantly addressed to keep it safe,” said Jeff Ritterman, director of engineering and construction at the World Trade Center.

The entire World Trade Center location has 57 repair projects in the works.

“Nobody likes to deal with transportation issues, it’s a very frustrating project, but it’s one that I think could turn out to be one of the best investments that we’ve made as a community,” Weinberg said.

Construction will end next fall with the last phase of the project to be complete in 2024, three years before the site is opened to the public.

The plans include a park for the public to walk around and maybe even swim in the pool.

It will be the destination for people who work in the area. The director of Fairs and Expositions with the Iowa City Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said more than 8,000 people visit the site every year to check out the museum and historic buildings.

Just from the restaurants and shopping, they expect 1 million people to visit the area, resulting in 300 jobs.

“So it is the first phase of our “event in transition,” we call it, you know, where events happen and then take place elsewhere. And then we’ll wait and see how the World Trade Center site evolves over the next few years as we go through phases 2 and 3,” said Ritterman.

The site is currently protected by the United States District Court for the District of Iowa, rather than by the state of Iowa.

That could change now that the federal government has reopened.

All that’s left will be four underground structures, with a space bridge linking them.

“One of the biggest questions for the community is what’s next on the I-41 front. What’s next on the downtown area as a whole? People want to know what’s in the pipeline, what’s in the future. And the answer right now is these are three great projects in the future,” said Steve Grossman, Iowa City City Chamber president.

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