Like the Jones County Board of Supervisors a few weeks before, the Anamosa City Council voted July 13 unanimously to close the Old Dubuque Road intersection at Highway 151, starting Aug. 3.
The move comes based on the recommendation of the safety committee established to determine the future of the intersection, one of the most dangerous in the entire state.
Though the council action was unanimous, the views on the closure were not. Two members of the public addressed the council members in opposition to the move.
Bill Goodman said he felt the council was not listening to the public feedback that was received during the joint meeting between the city and the county in January. He said he felt Sheriff Greg Graver and Jones County Engineer Derek Snead had pushed the closure on the supervisors and then the city council and that the closure would inconvenience the public.
“It’s a rushed decision. That road doesn’t need to be closed now,” Goodman said.
Sheriff Greg Graver, who attended via Zoom, addressed Goodman’s comments, saying his push to close the intersection was all about safety and protecting people’s lives.
“I think people’s lives are more important than people’s convenience, including mine,” he said.
Graver felt that the main objections that he noted from the initial meeting had been addressed. The four concerns he heard most often were: the loss of county involvement after the intersection was closed, losing emergency access, losing the east side connection and concerns of having no plan moving forward if the intersection was closed.
Graver said the materials provided by the DOT to barricade the road while allowing the road to be opened for emergency vehicles and the concept developed by the Jones County Engineer’s Office, which connects Old Dubuque Road to Parham Drive with a roundabout and includes an overpass, addressed those issues. By closing the Old Dubuque Road intersection, access remained to the east side as well.
Mayor Rod Smith said the closure and plans for the intersection had gotten wide support from the community.
“The school supported it. Obviously, the county supported it. Law enforcement support it. Other emergency (services)…support it,” he said.
Council member Alan Zumbach said he was hesitant to close the intersection, but it was clear that the city didn’t have much choice, or the Iowa Department of Transportation was going to do it for them. There was another, more personal reason, why he wanted to move forward with the plan.
“The other thing that bothers me more than any of the things the statistics said is my shop is 300, 400 yards...from the intersection,” Zumbach said. “In the summer time, the overhead doors on my shop are open. Do you know what it sounds like when a car hits another car? I mean really hits it? Every year I hear that and my first thought is, ‘Somebody died.’
“I don’t want to hear that noise anymore.”
Conrad Shada, whose trucking operation is on Old Dubuque Road, also voiced his opposition. He questioned where his trucks would come in and the issues that would come about from them going through town. Bryce Ricklefs of Boomerang Corp. offered a differing view, saying he approved of the closure, despite it meaning his trucks had to go around.
Shada also stated that while he believed the intersection needed to be closed, that it made more sense to do it closer to the project’s completion.
When it came to the timing of the closure of the intersection, the Iowa Department of Transportation has said that if nothing is done locally, the median will be closed, cutting off access to both sides. Graver also reiterated that if the council had not voted to close the west side of the intersection, he would have pursued the closure of the median with the DOT.
The Iowa DOT will provide the city with the necessary signage, barricades, portable message and the gate to block up the road and would be applying for funds to cover the preliminary closure costs for the city, Smith reported.
Other issues the council looked to address is how snow removal would work with the gate and working with Chief of Police Jeremiah Hoyt to address possible congestion issues that may arise, like with trucks trying to make the turn downtown.