Feb 22, 2021 - News

Des Moines moves to reduce lanes on major roads for safety

Illustration of a hand pinching a road. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Des Moines is trying to shrink the number of lanes on major roadways, especially four-lane undivided thoroughfares.

Why it matters: Safety is the primary motivator, city engineer Steven Naber tells us.

  • Fat roads mean fast traffic and that's unsafe, especially in our dense commercial and residential areas.

The intrigue: Skinnier roads also help improve a community’s overall livability by making room for amenities such as bike lanes.

  • You’ve probably seen Des Moines’ road diet efforts in the works along key corridors like University and Sixth avenues.

What’s next: A road diet project along Ingersoll Avenue from Polk Boulevard to 42nd Street will start in the coming weeks.

  • The $3.6 million project will repurpose or reconfigure the existing three lanes to single lanes of motor traffic in each direction, on-street parking primarily on the south side of the street, and buffered bike lanes.
  • It will be completed in late 2021 or early 2022.

Noteworthy: An $8.2 million reconstruction project that was set to add a lane along a portion of East Douglas Avenue this year has instead been redesigned to stay skinny as part of the city’s effort to improve safety and slow traffic.

  • Euclid Avenue would narrow in some portions from five to three lanes under a plan the city council voted to request bids for earlier this month.

The other side: Some Iowans hate diets. A bill introduced in 2019 would have prohibited the state’s transportation department from recommending road diets to avoid “pushing a top-down, bureaucratic idea on communities.”

  • That bill failed to become law.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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