Jun 15, 2022 - News

Urban planner says Des Moines should consider viaduct removal

A photo of a Des Moines viaduct.
The Southwest 9th Street viaduct and West End Architectural Salvage's building at 22 9th Street. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Des Moines should explore an idea to remove downtown viaducts, according to RDG Planning & Design's recommendation.

  • The suggestion was part of a long-term vision plan presented to the city council this week.

Why it matters: Viaducts create "pretty significant barriers" to development of areas surrounding them, Laura Kessel, a director of the urban planning group, told council members Monday.

Catch up fast: The viaducts over Southwest 8th and 9th streets have been in place for decades to elevate vehicles above railroad tracks or roads to efficiently move traffic.

  • Large areas surrounding the viaducts are underused surface parking lots.

What's happening: A concept draft of a 10-year downtown vision plan is being discussed among the Greater Des Moines Partnership and other community partners. It will likely be formally adopted in the coming months.

  • The plan outlines major initiatives, including reworking the city's skywalk system and better connecting corridors among neighborhoods and attractions.

State of play: The viaducts carry about 7,000 vehicles a day and are important for quick emergency services, city engineer Steve Naber told Axios yesterday.

  • A nearly $1.2 million rehabilitation plan budgeted this year can extend their lifespan by 25 years and there are currently no plans to remove them, Naber said.

Yes, but: Removal could be considered should if bridges need more extensive repairs in the future, Naber added.

What they're saying: Brandon Brown, president of the Downtown DSM neighborhood association, told Axios that he would like more information about traffic efficiency and the potential cost associated with viaduct removal.

  • The association hasn't taken a position but will discuss the idea in coming weeks, he said.
  • Meanwhile, Councilperson and downtown resident Carl Voss, tells Axios that he's in favor of studying the recommendation.

Bottom line: Viaduct removal isn't in the city's immediate plans.

  • Yes, but: The potential to eliminate them is now part of a larger set of guiding principles and ideas that could shape their future.
A photo of Des Moines viaducts.
If downtown's elevated roadways were removed, the area could be developed and better incorporated into surrounding neighborhoods, a city planner told the DSM City Council this week. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios
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