The Iowa Department of Transportation announced plans Tuesday to broaden the scope of its proposed Traffic Incident Management Training Center in Jasper County.
The new $11.78 million plan would expand the center from the original 36 acres offered by Jasper County — located on the site of the former Jasper County Home — to 70 acres.
IDOT Chief of Motor Vehicle Enforcement Dave Lorenzen and Scott Marler, public service executive from IDOT’s Traffic Operations to Operations Bureau to Highway Division Bureau, updated the Jasper County Board of Supervisors on the TIM Training Center proposal at the board’s weekly meeting.
The new plan would add a one-mile track, with lane barrier to simulate highway crashes, hazardous materials spill and traffic stop training. Lorenzen said the new proposal calls for a two to four-lane simulated highway exit ramp to practice traffic enforcement safety in that environment.
“It’s very critical to the public in general, to law enforcement and service providers, towers, anyone who’s involved in this type of situation involving transportation,” Lorenzen said. “This center will provide an excellent opportunity for us to train in a real-life environment that none of us want to come across.”
The board signed a 28E agreement with IDOT in 2017, allowing the state agency access and the right to build on the county-owned property. Based on similar training center concepts in Nashville and Colorado, the facility in Newton is expected to be a draw for law enforcement from around the Midwest to learn the latest techniques in transportation enforcement and safety.
The Jasper County center would also allow training for secondary hazards such as down power lines our highways. With 8,000 square-feet of proposed classroom space, the TIM Training Center would include a K-9 obstacle course, grain bin rescue demonstrations, Medivac training, Hazmat training with pipeline, rail, CDL and for tanker spills.
Within the $11.78 million price tag is $5.5 million on site prep and buildings, $1.55 million on the center’s roadways, $3 million on the track loop and $1.68 million on a multi-use pad.
Soil sampling is already underway at the site, but Marler told Supervisor Joe Brock, with the expanded scope and added land, more environmental analysis will need to be conducted before construction can begin.
The remaining piece to put into place, Marler said, is funding. The IDOT will file paperwork in July with the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program for the $11 million facility.
The BUILD grant pulls from $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding congresses issued to the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2018 for projects located in rural areas that align well with the selection criteria.
According to the U.S. DOT, the maximum grant awarded in BUILD is $25 million, and no one state can be awarded more than $150 million.
Marler and Lorenzen requested a Letter of Support from the Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting to submit with the grant application due July 19. Lorenzen said the more local support shown, the more likely they’ll secure the federal funding.
The Des Moines Police Department, Iowa Interstate Railroad, Alliant Energy and Warren County Emergency Management have all given their support for the TIM Training Center. In Jasper County, the cities of Colfax, Newton, Sully, Monroe and Prairie City have all submitted letter in support, as well as REG Newton.
Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty was an early supporter of the project and is recruiting other agencies around the county to write letters of support to make the project more competitive in the grant application process.
“We’re on board all the way. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the county. IDOT is taking the lead and doing the bulk of the work, but I see endless opportunities,” Halferty said. “I think it could be a showcase, not only for Jasper County but for the state and DOT.”
A big plus for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and other local police departments would be the option to use the facility at a free or reduced cost. Many reserve deputies and police officers are volunteers but still in need of the same certifications as full-time officers, and this resource, Halferty said, would be a cost benefit for local law enforcement.
Board of Supervisors Chairperson Doug Cupples asked Lorenzen for input in a draft letter of support issued by the supervisors, and the board will likely take a vote whether to endorse the expanded TIM center proposal at a future meeting.
The IDOT will be notified by December if the project was awarded the federal funding.
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