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US-65 Southeast Connector (MLK Extension)

Map of the US-65 Southeast Connector // Credit: City of Des Moines

In the early 2000s, traffic studies warned that existing roads would be unable to serve projected 2030 travel demand in the southeast Des Moines metropolitan area – without investment in the corridor, future travelers would likely have to divert to a longer and less efficient route around the city

The city, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and Iowa Department of Transportation, used the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to solicit community input and identify a range of proposals that would accommodate the projected increases in traffic in Southeast Des Moines.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identified a multi-lane arterial road connecting Martin Luther King Parkway with U.S. Route 65 across the Des Moines river as the least disruptive project alternative.

Largely as a result of the public input process, the EIS also noted several previously-unidentified hazardous material sites in the construction areas as well as concern that the original design could have led to damage to a nearby levee. Other improvements implemented as a result of the NEPA process included improved wetlands mitigation and better efforts to engage Spanish-speaking communities affected by the project.

Construction on the Southeast Connector, which consists of multiple project phases, began in 2012 and is expected to be completed in 2012-2023.

[1] “Record of Decision: Southeast Connector Polk County, Iowa.” US Department of Transportation, FHWA. May 21, 2010. Available at:

[2] “Environmental Impact Statement: Southeast Connector Polk County, Iowa.” US Department of Transportation, FHWA. January 2010. Available at:

[3] About the Southeast Connector. City of Des Moines. Accessed February 10. 2019. Available at:

[4] “Des Moines SE Connector Bridge Grand Opening.” RGD Planning and Design. December 22, 2010. Available at:

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