SIOUX CITY -- By now, area motorists who frequently drive through Sioux City on Interstate 29 are used to the drill.
Traffic patterns through the construction zones are going to switch in the spring and again as winter nears.
Drivers, get ready for another one.
Weather permitting, on Wednesday southbound I-29 traffic from approximately Wesley Parkway to the Floyd River will be switched from its present detour route and onto the northbound lanes in the mainline interstate. The change will result in two lanes of traffic traveling head to head in each direction.
The traffic switch will get vehicles off of the detour while construction continues on new bridges over Perry Creek, Pierce and Virginia streets and Floyd Boulevard during the winter.
"The contractor, if weather permits, will continue doing bridge work," said Dakin Schultz, Iowa Department of Transportation District 3 transportation planner.
Though major construction on the $400 million project to widen I-29 to three lanes in each direction from Sergeant Bluff, through Sioux City, to the South Dakota border remains on schedule for completion by the end of 2019, the traffic switch had been scheduled for Nov. 22. Because that deadline was missed, Schultz said the contractor has been in the penalty phase since then, costing $13,000 per day.
"We had hoped to have this further along than what we expected," Schultz said.
Despite the delay, much was accomplished this year, the 10th year of the project, Schultz said.
Paving and construction of bridges on northbound lanes through downtown from Wesley Parkway to just past Floyd Boulevard were finished. Pavement in the southbound lanes was removed. Southbound bridges over Perry Creek, Pierce Street and Floyd Boulevard were demolished, and construction on the new bridges in those locations began.
Work continues on the new Virginia Street connection.
This year's detour introduced motorists to a new concept to the area, a free-flow traffic pattern that routed vehicles past the construction zone on the southbound frontage road while maintaining an exit and entrance at Floyd Boulevard -- all without forcing traffic to stop.
The design, aimed at minimizing traffic delays in the construction zone, was successful, Schultz said.
"It worked very well. We had very few issues with traffic backups in that area," he said.
Once the southbound detour is ended the month, the Floyd interchange will be restored to its normal traffic configuration, Schultz said.
As activity in the construction zone dips during the winter, business leaders are looking forward to the coming year and completion of much of the construction that local residents have dealt with for a decade.
Though inconvenient, the construction is a sign of progress, and the improved highway system is a selling point when trying to attract new businesses and expansion, said Barbara Sloniker, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce executive vice president. Paired with the recently completed expansion of U.S. Highway 20 east of Sioux City to four lanes, a six-lane I-29 makes it easier for shoppers and customers to get to Sioux City.
"We definitely tell prospects about it," Sloniker said. "We have good infrastructure coming into and going out of Sioux City."
Major construction of I-29 should be done in 2019, Schultz said, with cleanup work and the elevation of Hamilton Boulevard in the area beneath I-29 wrapping up in 2020.