In a unanimous vote, the Anamosa City Council approved initial designs for plans to improve safety at the Old Dubuque Road and Highway 151 intersection June 8.
Last year, when the Anamosa City Council and Jones County Board of Supervisors agreed to create a joint committee to address the dangerous intersection, they expanded the scope of the committee from just creating a frontage road to connect Circle Drive to Old Dubuque Road. The scope that was unveiled was much larger than a simple frontage road. The proposal includes an overpass bridge to connect the west and east side of Highway 151 in between the current intersection and Circle Drive.
The proposal also includes the creation of a roundabout northwest of the current intersection, connecting Parham Drive, Old Dubuque Road and the overpass bridge. The roundabout spur to the west was proposed to get over the creek, but not connect to Knoll Street immediately.
As the committee of Supervisor Wayne Manternach, Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver, Jones County Engineer Derek Snead, Cody Shaffer, a former Anamosa City Council Member, Mayor Rod Smith and Anamosa Police Chief Jeremiah Hoyt, along with representatives from the Iowa Department of Transporation (DOT), started talking, their thought process got bigger.
“Those first couple meetings after the committee was formed, we discussed not only the best way to eliminate and prevent future accidents, but what impact that would also have on the surrounding town and road system,” Snead said in a presentation to the council.
The goals of the plan include safety, improving one of the most dangerous intersections in the state, connect Old Dubuque Road with Circle Drive to the north, connecting the areas east and west of Highway 151 and allowing for future growth. Graver said expansion of the project was due to the number of partners that had become part of the conversation, including the city, county, school district and businesses. The combination of having a project that achieved a safety goal and a plan for future growth was rare.
Council Member Jeff Stout agreed.
“It’s pretty rare you could take a plan like this…and have the safety factor improved, have the future economic development factor improve with the commercial park and the growth for residential. It all makes sense,” he said.
When looking at the possibility of just a frontage road, it made the connection with both sides of Highway 151 more costly down the road. The proposal does not include a request for an interchange, as Snead said that would be more costly and require more space that would be difficult give the constraints at the location.
Phase one of the project would include construction of the road off 130th Street, the bridge across the road and the construction of the roundabout, connecting Old Dubuque Road with Circle Drive at Parham Drive and a spur over the creek behind the middle school. A bigger project would allow better prices and would prevent parts of the project remaining unfinished if it was approached piecemeal, Snead said.
The roundabout would help improve the safety and be an efficient way to move through the traffic in the area. The location looks odd for now, but Snead said that is as close to the highway as it could be constructed given the grading.
The proposal allowed for multiple business or residential developments to be built off of phase one in the future.
“It didn’t make sense not to put all the pieces together,” Snead said.
“This is what a lot of people in town have been waiting for,” Matt Behrends said, a member of both Anamosa and Jones County’s economic development groups.
By allowing more growth in the northeast part of town, Superintendent Larry Hunt said he believed it would greatly benefit the school district and the rest of Anamosa by allowing developments close to the district’s school buildings.
“I think this is a tremendous plan…I’m very supportive,” Hunt said.
In addition to regular vehicle traffic, the bridge would allow a place for foot traffic and bike traffic, with a proposed trail down to the school, and ATV/UTV traffic to cross the highway. Bobby Krum, president of the Blue Cut Traiblazers thanked the committee for the plan, and Graver said allowing a city access for off-road vehicles was part of the consideration.
At a very initial and broad cost, such a project would be estimated between $4 million to $7 million, according to Lindsay Beaman with Snyder and Associates. She said it was difficult to know what could change with possible unknown. The total cost to the taxpayers would depend on the types of grants that could be gotten. Beaman hoped to have somewhere around half the cost covered by grants.
Construction was estimated to be completed by 2022 or 2023 if the project continues to move forward. Council Member Alan Zumbach said he wondered, with the time such a project could take, whether the Old Dubuque Road intersection should remain open, saying he would err on the side of closing it.
In conversations with the DOT, Graver said it was clear doing nothing was not an option and that if no plan was presented, they would step in. Smith said it was much better for the city and the county to “have that ball in their hands” when it came to what was done at the intersection.
The council members voted to approve the initial design, with plans to approve a contract for Snyder and Associates at the next meeting.