The final phase of a $17.2 million road expansion project in West Des Moines is expected to begin later this year, and when complete will ease traffic congestion in the western part of the suburb and open the corridor for more development.

The West Des Moines City Council in May approved an agreement with the Iowa Department of Transportation for the construction of two bridges over Interstate Highway 80 at Ashworth Road. The project is expected to begin later this year with completion slated for late 2021 or early 2022.

The nearly $10 million bridge project is the capstone to the Ashworth Road widening project that began in 2017. Before the widening, Ashworth Road west of Jordan Creek Parkway was a rural, two-lane road with gravel shoulders. The project, which has been completed in phases, widened to five lanes the 1.8-mile stretch from Jordan Creek Parkway west to 98th Street, north of I-80. The road now includes two-way left turning lanes, sidewalks on one side of the street and a recreational trail on the other.

In the past five or so years, commercial and residential development in the area has contributed to steadily climbing traffic counts. In 2013, an average of 8,700 vehicles a day traveled the road, said Brian Hemesath, West Des Moines’ city engineer. By 2016, 26% more vehicles were on the road, or about 11,000 a day, he said. 

“There were a lot of backups. … And it was really hard to find gaps for people to turn,” he said. “Luckily we caught the tremendous growth on this road in time and we’ve been able to get these roads upgraded before we ran into gridlock-type situations.”

Interest in developing in the area is on the rise.

In March, an Ames developer discussed plans with West Des Moines officials for a $60 million apartment complex wedged between I-80 and Ashworth Road, west of 84th Street. The complex would include a 12-building, 612-unit apartment complex that would provide housing for people in entry-level jobs.
Developers have been waiting for the Ashworth Road expansion to be completed before committing to new projects, Hemesath said.

“People don’t like to build next to a road with a ditch,” especially when there’s plans to eventually widen the street, he said. Street widening projects are disruptive to residences and businesses. When construction of the bridges is finished, “there’ll be a completeness to that area,” Hemesath said.

The new, wider road “is a nice front door to people’s property,” he said. In addition, the sidewalks and recreational trail are amenities that new residents will enjoy using, he said.

Widening of Ashworth between Jordan Creek Parkway and the south leg of  88th Street was completed two years ago. The section between the north leg of 88th and 98th streets was finished last year, Hemesath said. 

No construction projects are planned on Ashworth this summer as designs for the bridges are finalized, environmental studies are completed and right-of-way land is acquired. 

“All summer, we’ll have Ashworth Road open from one end to another, which is something we haven’t had in a long time,” Hemesath said. “I’m sure residents are thrilled about that.”

Construction of the two bridges – one for northbound traffic, the other for southbound – is expected to begin later this year. The existing bridge will remain open during construction.  
 
Waukee is also making plans to widen the portion of Ashworth Road that runs through the Dallas County community, according to Summer Evans, the city’s spokesperson. Ashworth will be widened where it intersects with Grand Prairie Parkway in 2021.

“The widening of Ashworth Road will make a stronger connection between the cities of Waukee and West Des Moines with easier travel between the communities,” Evans wrote in an email.