DMACC looks to update, expand transportation institute

By: - September 12, 2023 5:32 pm

DMACC is moving ahead with its plan to update its transportation institute facilities. (Stock photo via Canva)

Des Moines Area Community College is looking to tap local, state and federal resources for its planned update to the DMACC Transportation Institute.

The community college received approval from board members Monday to seek bids to renovate Transportation Institute facilities, including construction of a new building and replacement of training concourses. A public hearing date will also be set for the project.

DMACC President Rob Denson said the institution’s current building, located on the north side of Des Moines, is old and has issues with leaks and mold, hence the need for a new one. Around half of the site’s 12-acre, paved area is unusable for training concourses and needs to be replaced, and water retention areas will need to be added in.


Once finished, the new building will house classroom and garage spaces alongside areas for individual and group study. The site plan also includes parking for students and visitors, new entrances and exits and an outdoor canopy.

Denson said these updates will allow the program to expand from a capacity of 250 students a year to 500.

“The goal is to hopefully get this started this fall and be in (the new building) by next fall, and we will schedule in such a way that we will continue to maintain our operations doing truck driver training during the interim,” Denson said during the meeting. “For example, the building that we need to tear down will remain up until we get into the new building.”

Denson said he hopes to see funding for the $9 million project from a variety of sources, including individual gifts, state grants and congressional dollars.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced in August that $5 million in infrastructure grants would be made available to community colleges for their commercial driver’s license (CDL) training programs. Denson said the college is submitting a grant application for up to $1 million in funding, and he is meeting with local businesses that utilize DMACC-trained drivers to discuss the project and request financial support.

U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn has expressed support for the program, Denson said, and is in the process of securing $1 million in congressional appropriations for the updates. Businessman and DMACC graduate Dennis Albaugh has already donated $1 million as the lead gift for the project, he said.

“The college will obviously have to put in some of our own money, but we’ve got significant facility needs across the college,” Denson said. “We are trying to raise as much as we can because, essentially, we’re building this to support the businesses and industries throughout central Iowa.”

According to Future Ready Iowa, the state will require more than 10,000 commercial drivers a year between 2020 and 2030. Denson said the driving program is in more demand than ever — enrollment grew from 163 students in 2021 to 200 students in 2022, and the program was expected to reach capacity this year.

“There is a tremendous demand for for CDL licensed operators,” Denson said.

DMACC studies facility needs

DMACC is also starting the process of creating a Masters Facilities Plan to see how the college could better serve its students and staff on each of its campuses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased online learning.

Members of design firm DLR Group spoke with the board Monday about its process. Its first steps are to visit DMACC campuses and speak with focus groups made up of students, staff, faculty and campus leaders.

This plan, which is expected to be finished in 18 months, will help the college decide on how to most efficiently utilize existing structures and strategically handle tear-down and construction with student needs in mind over the next five to 10 years.


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Brooklyn Draisey
Brooklyn Draisey

Brooklyn Draisey is a Report for America corps member covering higher education. She previously worked for the Quad-City Times and The Gazette covering topics ranging from business to culture.