The 2023 ACEC/Iowa Engineering Excellence Awards winning projects in the Transportation Category:

Transportation Grand Place Award (1st Place in Category)
Grand Conceptor Award (1st Place All Around)


Firm: AECOM Technical Services
Client/Owner: City of Waterloo
Project: University Avenue Reconstruction

Constructed in 1961, University Avenue was originally designated as U.S. 218 and served as the only major route between Cedar Falls and Waterloo. In the mid-1980s, the Iowa DOT constructed a new 6-lane freeway north of University Avenue, designating this new highway as U.S. 218. The existing University Avenue remained a state highway, redesignated as IA 934. In this same timeframe, Greenhill Road, a new 4-lane arterial street, was constructed approximately 1 mile south of University Avenue. Due to the addition of these new alternate routes, there was a shift in travel patterns and a decrease in traffic usage along University Avenue. These changes have resulted in a gradual decline in the traffic volumes and have negatively affected the economic vitality of the corridor, with an increase in vacant properties for sale or for lease.

In addition, the deteriorated condition of the University Avenue pavement, and the lack of consistent and visible bicycle and pedestrian crosswalks, striping, landscaping and other corridor aesthetic treatments, negatively impacted the City of Waterloo’s ability to sustain and attract housing, commercial development and employment opportunities along the corridor.

In 2016, the ownership of University Avenue was transferred to the City of Waterloo through a Transfer of Jurisdiction (TJ) process. This transfer gave the City of Waterloo full control over the corridor, as well as responsibility for the ongoing costs for maintenance and operation of the roadway. Because the existing roadway was in poor condition, the Iowa DOT provided the City with a one-time payment of $28 Million to assist with the reconstruction and redevelopment of the roadway.

The City of Waterloo, led by Mayor Quentin Hart, Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson and City Engineer Jamie Knutson, developed a plan to not only replace University Avenue’s deteriorated pavement but also to transform the corridor into a “Complete Street,” with a 10-foot multi-use path and 5-foot sidewalks, landscaping, bus/transit accommodations, and enhancements such as gateway and intersection markers. The City of Waterloo chose AECOM Technical Services, Inc. (AECOM), a global transportation engineering firm with a local office, to lead the redevelopment, design and construction engineering for the transformation of the corridor. This project returned the pavement to a state of good repair, modernized and transformed the roadway from an auto-centric highway to a modern, multimodal corridor with sidewalks, bike trails, and transit amenities.

The new 4-lane roadway has been constructed in 3 phases, with a total project cost of approximately $38.3 million. The first two phases of the project were approximately a combined 2 miles in length and were staged to maintain through traffic and access to adjacent businesses at all times. The third phase was approximately 1 mile in length and included a 2-lane roundabout, bridge enhancements at Greenhill Road and Black Hawk Creek, a new pedestrian underpass, floodgate repairs, and similar “Complete Street” elements as constructed in the first two phases.

The overall project upgraded eight (8) signalized intersections and added the first multi-lane roundabout in the City of Waterloo to bring the corridor into compliance with modern design standards. The traffic signals and controllers were updated with adaptive signal systems and connected the systems into the City’s fiber-optic network. The project has been focused on improving existing assets rather than expanding the physical footprint and implemented a “road diet” approach that converted the existing 6-lane divided roadway to a 4-lane Complete Streets corridor with enhancements such as plantings, street trees, intersection markers, gateway features, bridge monuments and LED wave railing lighting on the two bridges. The project also included reconstruction of the streetlights, water main, storm sewer, and sanitary sewer. In addition, utility coordination was required with MidAmerican Electric and Gas, United Private Network (UPN), Mediacom, and CenturyLink. As a part of the coordination, AECOM provided additional survey assistance to aid in the utility relocations.


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