Another fatality at the intersection of Highway 151 and Old Dubuque Road has sparked conversation about the future of the intersection.
After the death of Jones County Deputy Treasurer Shelli Gray Nov. 5, the intersection has garnered a lot of discussion. Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver said, while he was still working on gathering data, just looking at crash data from 2007-2017 and what he’s seen with his own eyes, it’s not even close when it comes to determining the county’s most dangerous intersection.
“It, by far…is the most dangerous intersection that we have,” he said.
Graver said he’d like to compare the data from the intersection to the data from Springville’s intersection, which lowered the speed from 65 to 55 miles per hour. Graver also plans to compare how the new overpass in Dyersville on Highway 20 has impacted accidents, though there is not enough room for the same thing to work for the local intersection.
The intersection previously produced fatal accidents in 2008 and 2012 and public meetings with the Department of Transportation back in 2009 discussed a handful of options, including the closure of the intersection, and resulted in the flashing lights currently warning of approaching traffic.
Graver said it is difficult without looking at the numbers, to determine how much of a difference they’ve made, but based on his experience wondered about the lights’ effectiveness.
“If used properly, it would probably help, but the problem is it also adds to the confusion,” he said.
Graver sees three possible paths forward. The first is to do nothing and accept the risk for what he called “convenience.”
“It saves you one minute,” he said. “Everything you need to get to can all be accessed from the other exit.”
Another option would be to change the intersection and take the roadway out to Circle Drive by J&P Cycles. The concept was approved back in 2012 by both the city council and the school board but never came to pass.
The final option Graver saw would be to shut down exit traffic. The county could vacate their portion of the road, which would allow the lane in which people get off the highway to be closed. When looking at things from a public safety perspective, that, Graver said, would be his preference, and it’s not a particularly tough decision.
“I’ve been here 24 years, we’ve been responding to fatality accidents there my entire career,” he said. “What are we getting by maintaining that intersection versus…the price of keeping that intersection open? We are killing and injuring way too many people for the functionality of that intersection.”
Jones County Engineer Derek Snead said during the Nov. 13 supervisors meeting that his preference would also be to vacate the county’s portion.
The supervisors were asked whether this was something they’d want Snead to continue to investigate, to which they answered affirmative. Even when Snead asked if their opinion would be different if presented with a petition.
“What’s one life versus 10,000 signatures?” Supervisor Wayne Manternach asked.
Supervisor Ned Rohwedder said no matter what the decision was, there would be opposition. The supervisors agreed that some action needed to be taken soon.
A similar view was expressed the previous night at the Anamosa City Council meeting.
“I think as a city, we should push pretty hard for the DOT to work with us on some way to make the intersection safer, whether it be closing it, or an overpass, or whatever it needs to be,” Council Member Cody Shaffer said.
Shaffer said he was hoping to pair up with Graver and the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, believing more could get done if they worked together. Graver echoed that sentiment, saying if his office, the county and city could all work together, the outcome would be better in the end.
Graver said it would be difficult to determine a timeline for action, particularly with turnover on the city council because of the recent election but said he and Jones County Attorney Kristofer Lyons plan on attending an upcoming council meeting to start the conversation.