An interchange that would open a development corridor between Waukee and West Des Moines has been approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

The interchange, with a current projected cost of $15 million, would provide access to the Alice's Road/105th Street corridor linking the two cities at Interstate 80. A bridge was constructed at the location in 2010.

An environmental impact study must be completed before construction begins. That study also will determine the design of the interchange, said Brad Deets, Waukee's director of development services.

The study should be complete by this fall and construction could begin in the spring of 2013, Deets said.

Waukee and West Des Moines officials have said the interchange will ease traffic congestion. In addition, it provides access from the interstate to development projects in both cities.

The interchange was rejected in 2007, based on a study that used outdated traffic flow data, proponents have said. That model was revised and resubmitted late last year.

"Now that we've got over that hurdle, I think we can start moving quicker on our projects," said William Spencer, whose Landmark Development Services owns more than 200 acres near the planned interchange in West Des Moines.

Kurt Brewer, who is part of a group of landowners with more than 1,700 acres, said that up to now he has tried to sell "hopes and dreams" for the area.

"Now we have a corridor where people can drive and see where they can build their business," he said. "This is the big one."

Construction of the interchange also coincides with the Iowa Department of Transportation's approval of $5.3 million in funding for the extension of Alice's Road between University Avenue and Ashworth Drive.
Waukee Mayor Bill Peard said the interchange "is a true game changers."
 
"I don't believe there is a project or initiative here locally that is a higher priority," Peard said.

Waukee Mayor Bill Peard said the interchange "is a true game changer."
 
"I don't believe there is a project or initiative here locally that is a higher priority," Peard said.

West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer pointed out that the area of the interchange was first considered for development when General Growth Properties Inc. looked at land to develop what is now Jordan Creek Town Center.

"It's been 10 years in the making," he said.

West Des Moines plans to pave three lanes of 105th Street south to Mills Civic Drive, while completing grading for an eventual six-lane road, Gaer said.

A recent development agreement with Oppidan Investment Co. of Minnetonka, Minn., also provides for the eventual paving of a graveled portion of Mills Civic on the north side of the Woodland Hills area, an area where the company is finishing a project first started by Regency companies prior to their collapse in 2008.

Gaer said the interchange and the reconstruction of the Grand Avenue bridge at Interstate 35 and improvements to that highway are key to maintaining the pace of development.

"This has been the missing piece to keeping things going in that area," Gaer said.

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