The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission has a draft version of its new long range transportation plan available for the public.
The 108-page plan is meant to be work-shopped in upcoming public meetings before final adoption. Much of SEIRPC's administration is away at various conferences this week, but regional planner Jarred Lassiter said the public meetings are still being scheduled and will likely be held in the group's office in West Burlington.
The plan compiles a lot of facts and data about the four counties included in the local region: Des Moines, Lee, Louisa and Henry.
Combined, the four counties have a population of about 108,000 people, according to the report. About 55 percent of the region's residents live in cities, while 45 percent are in rural areas.
The five largest employers in the region are listed as Great River Medical Center, Henniges Automotive, Tyson Foods, Alaniz Metro Group and American Ordnance. Seven of the top 15 biggest employers are manufacturing companies.
Population changes are making the region more diverse, but the area is still overwhelmingly white like most of Iowa. SEIRPC estimates it at 90 percent white.
"Not many millennials" reads one sad-looking information box in the document. Populations below 34 have decreased, and 56 percent of residents are 35 or older.
Average rent in southeast Iowa is $611 a month.
The average household income in Iowa is $53,183, but in the region its $46,050. Des Moines County's is $44,423. Throughout the region, 15 percent of people are below the poverty level.
SEIRPC reports high levels of single-parent homes in the area. Des Moines County has the highest number of single-parent homes in the entire state, at 41 percent of homes with children. The report links the statistic to crime in the area.
"While the degree of concern has likely been inflamed by media coverage and public perception, the underlying reality is still impossible to ignore — the region’s crime rate is higher than the state as a whole, and has been increasing over time."
After rolling through lots of facts and local circumstances, the report turns to goals. These are the nitty gritty details that'll be sorted through at the future public meetings. The goals are sorted into short term, long term and ongoing goals.
On transportation, upgrades to both U.S. 61 and U.S. 34 are goals within the next five years.
Replacing old bridges, such as Cascade Bridge, is an ongoing goal. Replacing and preserving existing infrastructure is noted as a better ongoing strategy than adding more infrastructure that a shrinking population will have to maintain.
After U.S. 61 is widened, the planners look to study how the bigger road impacts traffic on connecting roads so as to make further adjustments.
Economic development goals are also listed.
On the short term, the group's plan suggests building entrepreneurial assistance programs for immigrants and refugees in the area.
Redeveloping old industrial sites is a goal.
Amenities and lifestyle features are listed as an economic goal, because they're seen as a ways to keep younger people in the region. Encouraging younger people to get involved in local government is another economic goal for similar reasons.
The document suggests that tax incentives, such as tax increment financing and workforce housing tax credits, ought to be offered to housing developers in the area.
"Aggressive enforcement" of nuisance laws and rental housing inspections are also listed as community development goals.