SIOUX CITY | Through the windows at Jackson Street Brewing, owner Dave Winslow can watch the cars darting by on Fifth Street.
The three lanes of eastbound traffic keep vehicles moving at a steady clip, he said, often seeming well above the posted 25 mph speed limit.
"It seems like people when they drive by, especially on Fifth Street, they're just roaring through," he said. "It's almost more like an interstate of a downtown area."
Winslow said the speed of traffic gives drivers less time to notice his business, which is nestled at 607 Fifth St. between a nail salon and a religious gifts store. He said customers have also from time to time said they've had difficulty finding him while navigating the labyrinth of one-way streets in the city's downtown.
Fifth, Sixth, Nebraska, Pierce and Douglas streets have been one-way in downtown Sioux City for decades. And, for many years, area business owners like Winslow have viewed a return to two-way traffic on some or all of those streets as economically beneficial.
Winslow said while he wouldn't describe himself as a "overly squeaky wheel" about the switching, he supports the benefits.
"It’d be nice to see people coming to downtown more and slowing down and enjoying this good old farm city downtown," he said.
Proponents of two-way streets say they reduce confusion, slow vehicles down to safer speeds and give passersby longer looks at storefronts. Several major metros including Dallas, Denver and Kansas City, as well as Des Moines and Cedar Rapids in Iowa, have either transitioned or currently are transitioning some downtown streets to two-way traffic.
"One-way streets are more difficult for people and visitors, when they're coming into town, to try and figure out," said Ragen Cote, the executive director of Downtown Partners, a vocal supporter of the transition. "There's so much more we can do with parking and the way traffic flows."
A majority of City Council members have shared a desire for what two-way streets could accomplish, especially on Fifth and Sixth streets where they want to spur more business development. But the council has so far refrained from moving forward, largely because of the cost.
City officials experienced sticker shock after a 2014 report by Lincoln, Nebraska-based Olsson Associates laid out plans for turning Fifth, Sixth and Douglas streets to two-way, with one lane in each direction and a center turning lane, to improve traffic circulation and business access. The price tag: an eye-popping $9.8 million.
Sioux City staff have since pared that estimate to $5.8 million by eliminating some of the extras that had driven up the original quote. But council members say it's still a heavy commitment in a tight budget year where other infrastructure projects are a priority.
"We have to weigh what other projects we have, as far as the priority of going to a two-way street system," Councilman Dan Moore said.
During budget planning talks earlier this month, the council discussed starting with the full transition of Douglas Street, which is already two-way from Third Street to Fifth Street. The Public Works Department estimated that transition would cost approximately $650,000.
Already faced with a high-dollar capital projects plan, the council decided to keep the project on hold and not program it into the city's five-year plan. But Moore, who also serves as one of two council representatives on the Downtown Partners Board of Directors, said he hopes the council will keep discussions alive on the proposal this year.
"I think it's still under study, and we want to keep it out in front of us because there are benefits," he said.
Councilman Alex Watters, the council's other representative, agreed, saying he would like to learn more from businesses and professionals about the benefits.
"I want to hear from the hospital. I want to hear from downtown businesses. I want to see studies that would show that it would grow business downtown," he said. "I'd like more information -- what could we cut back and what changes could be made?"
'Why not start with one and get these done?'
Over the years, Mercy Medical Center -- Sioux City has had on-and-off discussions with city leaders regarding the conversion of Fifth and Sixth streets to two-way.
For hospital staff, it's not about losing business. It's about safety.
"During an emergency, when every second counts, an already stressful situation can become even more stressful because the driver needs to remember he or she may need to go around the block or alter their route depending on where they are coming from," Matt Robins, Mercy's director of marketing and communications, said in an email.
City officials have revealed that Mercy is mulling plans for a significant renovation, and the hospital filed some preliminary site plans with the city in March of last year. Mercy has so far declined to comment on the project.
Asked whether one-way streets would hinder or discourage future development on the property, Robins responded: "Possibly."
Another strong proponent of the transition is Roger Caudron, a development consultant who vigorously campaigned for the transition to two-way streets during his tenure as Downtown Partners' previous executive director. Now, as he works with developer Lew Weinberg and Restoration St. Louis to restore the Warrior Hotel and Davidson Building on Sixth Street, Caudron continues to support the move.
"We've been talking about changing these streets back to two-way for 20 years now," he said. "Why not start with one and get these done?"
Caudron said two-way streets would help foster business growth downtown as motorists have easier access to businesses, including the renovated Warrior/Davidson. When completed, that $56 million project will boast a 146-room Autograph by Marriott Hotel, luxury apartments and some of the only retail business in the vicinity.
To illustrate his point, Caudron laid out an example of a car exiting the Martin Luther King Jr. parking ramp across the street from the future hotel and, due to the one-way street, having to travel around the block to pick someone up at the door.
"With valet parking, that means the people are going to watch the car go around the parking garage and go around the block before they get it," he said.
Caudron contrasted the sparse number of retail business on Fifth and Sixth streets with the blossoming Historic Fourth and Historic Pearl districts, which both sit on two-way streets, and said he believes two-way streets would increase the opportunity for vitality.
City staff: Transition is 'not that simple'
City public works director Dave Carney said changing the flow of traffic from one way to two is expensive because it requires more than just a fresh paint job or a few re-positioned traffic lights.
"It's not like you can just flip the (traffic lights) around and they'll work," he told the City Council during a mid-January budget hearing. "It's not that simple."
Carney said the $5.8 million estimate to transition Fifth, Sixth and Douglas comes from the need to install new traffic signal poles, wiring and signal heads at 15 intersections, as well as a new thin overlay of pavement to cover up the old traffic lanes and painting costs for the new lines.
As much as half of the estimated $650,000 cost to convert Douglas Street was for traffic signal replacement.
Carney said he sees one-way streets as an efficient way to move traffic through the downtown area and added that some downsides could include more congestion on the roads and potential dangers from pedestrians who forget certain streets aren't one-way.
At the same time, spending that much money on a two-way conversion could push other infrastructure repairs and replacements further back on the priority list.
The average age of Sioux City's streets is more than 70 years old, and city officials have made it a point to keep the average age of its infrastructure from increasing. The cost of replacing streets inflates each year and will be valued at an estimated $9.8 million per mile in the upcoming budget year.
With that in mind, Watters described the city's position as a "chicken or egg" situation, and Moore likened it to the two sides of a coin. In one sense, they said, a transition would make more sense once more business arrives downtown. On the other, the transition to two-way could be the catalyst for more downtown business growth.
Watters said the high number of large-scale downtown projects under construction makes it a good time to "strike while the iron's hot," but he believes the decision will ultimately be based on the city's ability to pay for it.
Moore said he wants to see the council discuss where two-way streets fit on its list of its priorities as it continues to look into what's involved.
"Right now it's wait-and-see," he said.
WASHINGTON — The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the "Dreamer" immigrants today, and Republican senators say they'll introduce President Donald Trump's plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation.
If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he'll say something that undermines the effort.
Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president's blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.
Trump, thus far, has balked on that front.
"The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him," is how Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a proponent of compromise, describes the president and the impact conservative voters and his hard-right advisers have on him. "I don't know how far he'll go, but I do think he'd like to fix it."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled an initial procedural vote for this evening to commence debate. It is expected to succeed easily, and then the Senate will sort through proposals, perhaps for weeks.
Democrats and some Republicans say they want to help the "Dreamers," young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally since they were children and have only temporarily been protected from deportation by an Obama-era program. Trump has said he wants to aid them and has even proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million, but in exchange wants $25 billion for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall plus significant curbs to legal immigration.
McConnell agreed to the open-ended debate, a Senate rarity in recent years, after Democrats agreed to vote to end a three-day government shutdown they'd forced over the issue. They'd initially demanded a deal toward helping Dreamers, not a simple promise of votes.
To prevail, any plan will need 60 votes, meaning substantial support from both parties is mandatory. Republicans control the chamber 51-49 but GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been home for weeks battling brain cancer.
Seven GOP senators said late Sunday that they will introduce Trump's framework, which they called a reasonable compromise that has White House backing. The group includes Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn of Texas and Iowa's Charles Grassley.
Democrats adamantly oppose Trump's plan, particularly its barring of legal immigrants from sponsoring their parents or siblings to live in the U.S. It has no chance of getting the 60 votes needed to survive. The plan will give GOP lawmakers a chance to stake out a position, but it could prove an embarrassment to the White House if some Republicans join Democrats and it's rejected by a substantial margin.
Another proposal likely to surface, backed by some Republicans and many Democrats, would give Dreamers a chance at citizenship but provide no border security money or legal immigration restrictions. It too would be certain to fail.
Votes are also possible on a compromise by a small bipartisan group led by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. It would provide possible citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, $2.7 billion for border security and some changes in legal immigration rules. McCain and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would offer legal status but not necessarily citizenship, and require tougher border security without promising wall money.
Trump has rejected both proposals.
Some senators have discussed a bare-bones plan to protect Dreamers for a year in exchange for a year's worth of security money. Flake has said he's working on a three-year version of that.
"I still think that if we put a good bill to the president, that has the support of 65, 70 members of the Senate, that the president will accept it and the House will like it as well," Flake told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Underscoring how hard it's been for lawmakers to find an immigration compromise, around two dozen moderates from both parties have met for weeks to seek common ground. So have the No. 2 Democratic and GOP House and Senate leaders. Neither group has come forward with a deal.
In January, Trump invited two dozen lawmakers from both parties to the White House in what became a nearly hour-long immigration negotiating session. He asked them to craft a "bill of love" and said he'd sign a solution they'd send him.
At another White House session days later, he told Durbin and Graham he was rejecting their bipartisan offer. He used a profanity to describe African nations and said he'd prefer immigrants from Norway, comments that have soured many Democrats about Trump's intentions.
Trump made a clamp-down on immigration a staple of his 2016 presidential campaign. As president he has mixed expressions of sympathy for Dreamers with rhetoric that equate immigration with crime and drugs.
Last September he said he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets Dreamers temporarily live and work in the U.S. Trump said President Barack Obama had lacked the legal power to create DACA.
Trump gave Congress until March 5 to somehow replace it, though a federal court has forced him to continue its protections.
The court's blunting of the deadline has made congressional action even less likely. Lawmakers rarely take difficult votes without a forcing mechanism — particularly in an election year. That has raised the prospect that the Senate debate launching Monday will largely serve to frame a larger fight over the issue on the campaign trail.
SIOUX CITY | The Sioux City Police Department plans to purchase 10 new Ford Police Interceptors to replace aging vehicles in its fleet.
The Sioux City Council will vote Monday on the $360,496 purchase of the sport utility vehicles from Ed Stivers Ford Inc. of Waukee, Iowa.
According to city documents, Sioux City is looking to purchase eight Interceptors with 48-inch light bars at a cost of $36,188 apiece and two more with a front interior visor bar, rear spoiler traffic warning lights, trailer towing package and 2-inch receiver hitch at a cost of $35,496 apiece.
The city invited 11 vendors able to provide the vehicles and received bids from four, with Ed Stivers Ford the low bidder.
In other action, the council will vote on whether to submit a grant application to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for a water quality grant that will provide "green infrastructure" at the future site of the Bomgaars Ag Expo Center.
The $16 million Bomgaars Ag Expo Center will be built on a city-owned parcel where the larger John Morrell hog slaughter plant once stood. Since the buildings and parking lot will all be impervious, they will generate significant storm water runoff during rain, according to city documents.
The grant would be used for soil quality restoration, infiltration trenches and native landscaping.
If approved, the $100,000 grant would fund 50 percent of the construction costs. The city would match the other $100,000.