For years, West Des Moines has been planning to build a parkway through Madison and Warren counties, a road that would loop around the southwest side of the metro, linking Interstate 80 to Highway 5.

At times, completion of the so-called Southwest Connector felt decades away.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t expect to see that segment built in my career here, or even lifetime,” said Clyde Evans, West Des Moines’ community and economic development director.

But Microsoft’splan to build a massive data centeralong the parkway route “accelerates the plan considerably.”

Because of the proposed data center project, thenew road should be open to traffic by early 2019, Evans said.

Veterans Parkway

Thesouthwest loop will involve two roads:

  • Veterans Parkway, adiagonalroute that begins at 63rd Street,will be extended to the southwest past Highway 5. Just north of Cumming, it will veer westand will continueto a point about 3 miles west ofInterstate 35.
  • Grand Prairie Parkway, which sits west of the Jordan Creek area, will be extended south of Interstate 80, where a new interchange recently opened. It will continue south to the Raccoon River, where a new bridge is proposed. Ultimately, it will extend south of the river andmeet with Veterans Parkway.

Once finished, the L-shaped corridor will give drivers a direct route from Interstate 80 and Waukee to 63rd Street and the south sides of Des Moines and West Des Moines.

City officials say the parkway will likely be two or three lanes initially and could be widened as the area grows. It is expected to include roadside trails for bikes and pedestrians.

How new data center could reshape West Des Moines

West Des Moines estimates that it will spend $65 million to $75 million on infrastructure improvements related to Microsoft's data center, including the parkway, sewers andpower lines.

The road is not being built just to serve Microsoft’s new data center. The facility, after all, is expected to employ about 133 people whenfully constructed.

The goal is to openup huge swaths of farmlandto development in the isolated southwest corner of West Des Moines. Today, there are few paved roads providing access to the area south of the Raccoon River and west of Interstate 35.


With a new parkway through the area, homes, offices, warehouses and other developments will follow in the decades to come, West Des Moines officials say.

If you build a road, the development will come, the theory goes.

“When you look at all of the infrastructure that will be built as a part of this project, it will open up over 5,000 acres for development," Mayor Steve Gaer said.

The data center, which will sit just east of Interstate 35 and south of Dale Moffatt Reservoir, would be Microsoft’s third such facility in West Des Moines. The first two centers are projected to cost more than $2 billion.

The first phase of the new facility, code-named Project Osmium, is projected to cost $418 million, and in total the project could top $2 billion, officials say.

The new parkways arepart of West Des Moines’ incentive package for the project.

For Microsoft to receive $4.75 million in tax rebates from the state, West Des Moines must provide a matching amount of incentives. The city's incentive is coming in the form of infrastructure; it will build new roads, waterlines and sewers to the data center site.

West Des Moines offered a similar infrastructure-based incentive package for Microsoft’s other facilities.

City officials say such infrastructure investments have the side benefit of helping spur other developments. Homebuilders and commercial real estate developers are more likely to invest if the arterial roads and waterlines their projects need are already in place.

“It really opens up this whole area of northern Madison and Warren county for potential development,” Evans said.

But some urban planners and real estate thinkers in the metro have previously criticizedroad expansions such as Veterans Parkway, saying such projectsencourage urban sprawl. They say tax dollars would be better spent fixing existing roads, supporting public transit and encouraging denser developments.

Evans said he has heard those argument before. The city of West Des Moines took a lot of heat for building six-lane roads around the Jordan Creek Town Center before the mall even opened. At that time, the wide roads were in the middle of nowhere.

A decade later, huge offices, housing developments and shops have sprung up around them.

“People are pretty thankful for those six-laneroads now,” Evans said.

Other suburbs are also excited to see the new southwestern loop built. The road will sit a few hundred feet from the city limits of Cumming.

“When that goes in, it’s going to make Cumming more attractive to more businesses and homeowners,” Mayor Tom Becker said.

Twenty years ago, Cumming residents probably would have resisted such change, he said. Residents would not have wanted to see the city grow to the edge of theirsmall town.

But Becker said he sees the new parkway as a very positive development.

“We all know it takes commercial development to pay for everything,” he said.

What happens to the Great Western Trail?

The Great Western Trail,one of the Des Moines area's most popular recreationaltrails,sits directly along the path of the proposed expansion of Veterans Parkway.

But cyclists shouldn't worry, West Des Moines officials say. The city will build a new roadside trail to replace the short section that would be displaced by the new road. The road and trail will parallel each other for part of the spanbetween Highway 5 and Cumming.

Construction has begun near the trail, which stretches 17 milesfrom Water Works Park in Des Moines to Martensdale. Acovered picnictable just south of Highway 5, a popular stopping pointmany cyclists called "the lean-to," was recently removed to make way for the roadway expansion.

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