University Avenue Corridor Improvements (31st Street to 48th Street)
8/10/2022 Project Update
2023 Construction Season: 31st Street to 39th Street
2024 Construction Season: 39th Street to Waveland Golf Course
Reconstructing University Avenue Corridor: A Project Overview
Beginning in 2019, The City of Des Moines Engineering Department began University Avenue Corridor Improvements starting at 63rd Street, working east towards the downtown area. The primary goal of these improvements was to improve roadway safety for all types of traffic that utilize this corridor, including reducing unsafe corridor speeds and vehicular maneuvering (jockeying/passing), improving pedestrian crossings, and adding dedicated bicycle facilities. "Road Diets" such as this 4-lane to 3-lane conversion have been proven nationally and locally to improve roadway safety and multi-modal accessibility for all.
Background on Completed Improvements
- In 2019, University Avenue from 63rd Street to 55th Street was converted from 4 lanes to 3 lanes with a center left-turn lane. The Pedestrian bridge near the Windsor Elementary School was also replaced with the HAWK (High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk) Beacon and a raised refuge island.
- In 2019, University Avenue from 55th Street to 48th Street was converted from 4 lanes to 3 lanes with a center left-turn lane. A multi-use trail was also added alongside the Waveland Golf Course.
- In 2020, University Avenue from 31st Street to 25th Street was converted from 5 lanes to 3 lanes with a center left-turn lane. Dedicated on-street bicycle lanes were also installed.
Project Purpose and Goals
Safety: The main goal of this project is to improve roadway safety and multi-modal accessibility
Consistent Corridors: A vehicular traffic study was completed and found traffic volumes are well within 3 lane roadway capacity.
Improving Pavement Condition: The roadway pavement has deteriorated and needs to be resurfaced.
The City of Des Moines Engineering Department held a virtual public meeting for this project on January 5, 2022. To view a PDF version of the University Avenue Corridor Improvements, click the button below.
Recording of the January 6, 2022 Meeting
City of Des Moines Engineering Department - Project Engineer
Scope and Budget for the Project
The project scope and funding originated from a need to rehabilitate the University Avenue pavement between 31st Street and 48th Street by resurfacing the pavement. Resurfacing includes milling off the top layer(s) of asphalt pavement and overlaying with new hot-mix asphalt.
The existing roadway cross-section between 31 st Street and 48th Street is a five-lane roadway and based on data collected by City staff, experiences speed well over the posted speed limit. Implementing a road diet (reducing the number of lanes from five to three) as part of the resurfacing project has been proven nationally and locally to improve roadway safety (reducing unsafe corridor speeds and vehicular maneuvering/jockeying) and improve multi-modal accessibility (improving pedestrian crossings and allowing for dedicated bicycle facilities).
The three-lane roadway will also provide a consistent, right-sized corridor from 25th Street to 63rd Street. The City is also looking to implement some access management improvements at the commercial nodes at Polk Boulevard and 42nd Street to improve safety in those areas. The City has budgeted approximately $2.8 million for the project.
Note: Plans shown on the webpage are conceptual and may change slightly based on detailed design.
Q&A: Will University Avenue remain open during the project, and will I have access to my driveway?
It is anticipated that one travel lane in each direction will remain open during the construction of the project with lane closures. The City and the City's construction contractor for the project will work diligently to minimize disruption to roadway users, businesses, and residents.
For questions about specific locations and driveway access during the construction of the project, please contact the City's project engineer at (515) 283-4920.
Q&A: Will sidewalks be reconstructed and widened, and will more space be put between the sidewalk and street?
Sidewalk replacement for the purposes of widening the sidewalks along the corridor is not included in the scope and budget for the project. The only sidewalk replacement included in the project scope is located at the two commercial nodes, located at Polk Boulevard and 42nd Street. This is being done as part of the access management improvements and separating the bicycle facilities from the roadway at those commercial nodes.
Although existing sidewalks will not be replaced (other than at the two commercial nodes), the existing outside travel lane will be converted to an on-street buffered bike lane which will provide a greater buffer between pedestrians on the sidewalk and the vehicular traffic lane.
Q&A: Will the difficulties at the 48th Street and University Avenue intersection be resolved?
The proposed concept, with the curb bump-out, will allow southbound vehicles on 48th Street that are approaching University Avenue to stop further south, allowing for better visibility. The angles parking will also be shifted further east to allow for better visibility. Reducing the number of lanes from five to three will also reduce the number of conflict points for southbound vehicles on 48th Street and improve visibility. (Please reference the image below)
Q&A: Will overhead utilities along University Avenue be relocated or moved underground?
Undergrounding or relocating overhead utilities along the University Avenue Corridor is not included in the scope and budget for the project.
Q&A: Why isn't the City relocating the overhead utilities between 41st and 42nd street?
City staff contacted MidAmerican Energy to inquire about the possibilities of either relocating the overhead facilities or burial of the overhead facilities and potential implications to the budget. The estimated cost to bury the overhead utilities along University Avenue between 41st Street and 42nd Street would've likely exceeded $500,000.
Q&A: How will the intersections of Polk Boulevard & University Avenue and 47th Street & University Avenue operate with the proposed median at 47th Street?
The median proposed on University Avenue at 47th Street will remove the left turns from University Avenue onto 47th Street and the left turns from 47th Street onto University Avenue. The traffic signal at Polk Boulevard & University Avenue will be rebuilt and with the proposed median at 47th Street, the intersection will function similarly to a standard signal operation. This will reduce the number of conflicts, the potential for traffic queueing into the intersection, and overall confusion leading to the reduction of potential crashes.
One suggestion we have received is to move the traffic signal pole east of 47th Street. This would require that the intersection of 47th Street become signalized as well. The City follows the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) which is published by the Federal Highway Administration and adopted by the State of Iowa. The manual provides the requirements and guidance for the installation of traffic control devices such as traffic signals. The MUTCD prohibits the placement of stop sign control within a signalized intersection. Signalizing the intersection of 47th Street and University would create an offset signalized intersection which can create traffic operational issues, long delays for side streets, and increases the potential for crashes.
Q&A: With the proposed median at University Avenue and 47th Street, will parking be allowed on both sides of 47th Street?
Based on the City's Parking Restriction Policy, on-street parking is only allowed on one side of the street due to the street width. It may be possible to switch the side in which parking is allowed through the City petition process.
For more information on the petition process for on-street parking, please contact the Traffic and Transportation Division by email ENG-TT-Web@dmgov.org or call (515) 283-4973.
Q&A: Larger vehicles parked in the angled parking spaces on University Avenue between Polk Boulevard and 48th Street are too large. What is being done about this issue?
The existing angled parking spaces are 16.5 feet deep. To alleviate the concern of vehicles extending into the travel lane, the proposed concept will increase the depth of the angled parking spaces to between 18-20 feet.
The recommended depth of these spaces is 17 feet, so by extending the spaces to between 18-20 feet, this issue will be alleviated.
Q&A: Will the Polk Boulevard and University Avenue traffic signal includes a pedestrian countdown signal on the east side of Polk Boulevard?
The traffic signal at the intersection of Polk Boulevard and University Avenue will be completely rebuilt as part of the project and will meet the City's current standards. A crossing with a pedestrian countdown will be installed. The location of the new crossing will be determined during the design process, but it will likely be located on the west side of the intersection to reduce the number of right-turn conflicts at the intersection.
How will bicyclist safety be accounted for at the Polk Boulevard and University Avenue intersection?
New in-pavement detection will be installed on Polk Boulevard as part of the traffic signal reconstruction. This detection is designed to detect bicycles as well as vehicles.
Q&A: Will the proposed median at 47th Street and University Avenue cause more traffic on 48th Street?
The restriction of left-turning movements will result in local traffic diverting to adjacent streets, possibly including 48th Street and 46th Street. However, based on traffic data collected by the City, the rerouted traffic is estimated to be only about 125 vehicular trips per day amongst multiple streets along the corridor, leading to traffic impacts on adjacent streets to 47th Street being very small.
Q&A: Why is a separated bicycle trail proposed on the south side of University Avenue west of Polk Boulevard?
The bicycle trail west of Polk Boulevard will connect to the existing multi-use trail located along the south side of University Avenue to 56th Street. With the signalized intersection at University Avenue and Polk Boulevard, the bicycle facility will transition to the on-street buffered bike lanes.
Q&A: Is there landscaping included for the proposed median between 41st Street and 42nd Street?
The roadway project scope, as the concept is proposed, includes a concrete median/refuge island (similar to the median at Windsor Elementary) for a pedestrian refuge for the mid-block pedestrian crossing. The west end of the median between 42nd Street and 41st Street is determined by the queued westbound traffic at the traffic signal at 42nd Street and University Avenue. Enough storage space must be provided to prevent westbound left-turning vehicles from "spilling" into the travel lane and enough distance provided to prevent queued westbound through traffic from blocking access to the left-turn lane.
The median will be designed to extend as far west as possible while maintaining the required distances described above.
Q&A: Can a pedestrian crossing be installed closer to the intersection of 41st Street and University Avenue?
The crossing location shown in the proposed design concept places the crossing midblock at the bus stop locations and adjacent to the grocery store where the heaviest pedestrian volumes are likely to occur. The proposed crossing location has the following advantages:
- It places the crossing midblock away from turning conflicts.
- It places the crosswalk behind the bus stops which is the preferred location for visibility and bus conflicts. This allows a pedestrian to exit the bus and see oncoming traffic before crossing. It also removes any conflict between a bus pulling out from the stop and the pedestrian crossing.
- It allows for a central pedestrian refuge which reduces the crossing width and prevents the passing of stopped vehicles (such as buses) in the turn lane which can cause vehicle-pedestrian conflicts.
- It allows pedestrians and vehicles clear visibility of each other.