Tuesday night there will be a meeting for a project years or decades overdue: Expanding US 69, aka Northeast 14th Street, between I-80 and Ankeny to four lanes (PDF). It’s in the part of Polk County that officially is not part of either Des Moines or Ankeny — Ankeny has, so far, strategically avoided annexing it.
With that in mind, here’s a semi-radical suggestion: Once the expansion is completed, reroute US 69 through a good chunk of Polk County.
Now, I tend to oppose moving US routes onto interstates, but I’m open to them under the following conditions: The new routing is completely signed (Arkansas and Indiana get F-minus-minuses on this, Wyoming gets an A-plus-plus), it doesn’t make the highway’s overall route look too goofy (this is where the US 6 reroute in Council Bluffs fails), and the highway being moved is all or predominantly an urban arterial (SO. MANY. STOPLIGHTS.).
Moving US 69 onto I-235 and I-35 between I-235 and either the Elkhart or IA 210 exits would satisfy those requirements (IF the state made new BGSs at the northeast mixmaster or at least had ground signs). Northeast 14th and I-35 are less than a mile and a half apart.
This action would be distantly related to the Iowa Highway Commission’s old efforts to delete parts of US 69 after I-35 was built, but with a modern angle. The trend for the Iowa DOT the past few years is to decommission urban arterials (Business US 169, University Avenue in Waterloo-Cedar Falls, the aforementioned US 6 reroute) and pay the cities decent money. (In retrospect, a no-roundabout clause would have been a good idea.) Ankeny is adding new streets all the time, Des Moines could be interested if the price is right, and the Polk County part would be shiny and new.
To cover the issue of IA 163′s west end, I wouldn’t pull it back to I-235. The interchange is incomplete; westbound 163 to northbound 235 requires using Delaware Avenue to Easton Boulevard. Rather, I’d retain University Avenue like it is and sign 163 down the fraction of a mile past East High School to meet I-235 at the East 14th/15th exit. It would create two eastbound exits in a row to 163, the new “South 69/East 163/E 15th St/E 14th St” exit and the existing direct ramp that gets clogged at State Fair time.