Nearly 40 years after it was originally proposed, the joint Iowa Department of Transportation/City of Dubuque U.S. 52 project, known as the Southwest Arterial, in Dubuque is nearing completion.
Connecting local industrial centers to each other and the rest of the Midwest and the world is the driving force for completion of this 6.1-mile, four-lane divided freeway that will provide a modern transportation alternative through southwestern Dubuque, linking the Dubuque Technology Park on U.S. 61/151 with the new Dubuque Industrial Center West and the existing Dubuque Industrial Center near U.S 20.
When open to traffic in 2020, the city estimates the Southwest Arterial will generate $80 million in property taxes, $1.67 billion in economic output, $653 million in labor income, and $1.02 billion in value-added from 2021-2030.
The new roadway is also expected to improve safety and mobility in the area as the majority of freight traffic will be routed on U.S. 52 instead of using the heavily congested highway corridor through Dubuque.
Why did the project take so long to develop? The city is built on buried Maquoketa Shale, named for the nearby Maquoketa River. The shale is very fragile and disintegrates when exposed to air. Until new technologies were recently found to stabilize the soil, the project was considered to be unbuildable.
Always believing in the eventual construction, Dubuque city leaders applied for and were awarded, nearly $2 million Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) Surface Transportation Program grant to begin the preliminary design. Over the next decade, the design was refined and further funding secured to prepare for construction. Over time the city was able to secure approximately $32 in federal, state, and local funding. And, working together, the city and Iowa DOT found new technologies to stabilize the soil and get the project moving.