A view near where the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers converge at the Scott Avenue bridge in downtown Des Moines. Photo by Duane Tinkey


The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization received a bid within budget for the Scott Avenue dam portion of the ICON Water Trails project. Leaders will begin moving forward with the next steps toward preparing a possible contract to be voted on at a special meeting, possibly as soon as next week.

The Iowa DOT opened the bid submitted by United Contractors and Reilly Construction on Tuesday. The $40.9 million bid came in under the budget of $43 million, and officials with the MPO will work with the DOT and the Federal Highway Administration on drafting a potential contract.

Bob Andeweg, MPO board chair and Urbandale mayor, said MPO officials and their partners at ICON Water Trails, the city of Des Moines, Polk County, the Iowa DOT and at the federal level are pleased to begin moving forward with the largest project of the first phase of the plan that connects more than 80 sites along 150 miles of rivers and creeks in Central Iowa.

“If this were easy to do, it would have been done years ago,” Andeweg said in a statement provided to the Business Record. “But with thoughtful planning, persistence, and the generosity of donors and granting agencies, we can create the water trails network that our region has long envisioned.”

The $125 million initiative is being funded through a combination of a capital campaign and public money, including a $25 million BUILD grant.

Receiving a bid under budget is the latest step in a plan that started with the approval of the Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Master Plan in 2016 and an engineering study in 2018.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded a $25 million BUILD grant for ICON Water Trails, but after one bidding cycle attracted no bids and a second attracted only one that was also over budget, the scope of the grant agreement had to be revised.

Under the revised plan, the grant will cover improvement at Scott Avenue, which is intended to create a safer, more user-friendly area for activities from kayaking to fishing. The grant will also cover an access site at Harriet Street. Other work included in the initial grant agreement will be completed under the new phased approach announced earlier this year.

Work covered by the Build Grant will be bid in three parts. The first was for the in-water elements at Scott Avenue, including the mitigation of the low-head dam and introduction of whitewater features. If a contract is awarded, work could begin next year.

Separate bids will be held over the next two years for the on-land improvements and access improvements near Harriett Street, a release stated.