Des Moines seeks $23M federal grant for MLK Parkway extension

By: - June 21, 2021 3:14 pm

Des Moines plans to seek a $23 million federal grant to help pay for a major expansion of Martin Luther King Parkway. (Image courtesy of city of Des Moines)

Des Moines is seeking a $23 million federal grant for a $60 million eastern extension of Martin Luther King Parkway officials consider essential to economic development. 

Tom Vlach, deputy city engineer, said the project is planned as the final extension of Martin Luther King Parkway from downtown to U.S. Highway 65. The route now runs to Southeast 30th Street.

The remaining link will help open southeast Des Moines to further development, Vlach said. It also will mean a major expansion of the recreational trail network, and improved safety by eliminating some railroad crossings along the route, part of which will be elevated.

The city has a virtual flyover of the planned extension, which would have a trail protected by a buffer of plantings. 

The main construction cost would be $44 million, but the tab rises to $60 million with engineering, administration, inspection, right-of-way work and the construction of related two-lane roads, Vlach said. 

The $23 million would come from the RAISE grant program run by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Those grants were previously called BUILD and TIGER. 

There also has been a request for $7 million in earmarks for the project. 

Martin Luther King Parkway east of downtown passes the recently expanded global headquarters of food additive tech firm Kemin Industries and a planned transload facility that will help move shipments between rail and trucks. The western part of MLK rings the southern and western edges of downtown, including a former Superfund site eyed for a professional soccer stadium

The city would need to come up with $25.7 million from property sales and other city sources. The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization would provide $11.3 million. The city transferred $7.9 million to Pleasant Hill, which has finished Pleasant Hill Boulevard, which is the eastern end of the route.

Vlach said the design is 75% complete and should be done next year.

Three of the city’s 24 land purchase offers have been accepted and signed, two have been informally accepted, and 19 are still in negotiation. Overall, the right-of-way is appraised at $3 million. The city plans to complete land purchases by the end of 2023. 

Bids are expected as early as December 2023. Construction would run from 2024 through 2026 if funds are available. 

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.