By Jake Bourgeois
After more than two hours of discussion March 12, the residents of Springville and the Iowa Department of Transportation still disagreed on the best way to fix the dangerous intersection at Highway 151 and County Road X-20.
The public hearing to discuss a proposed change to the intersection was at times a tense and emotional one.
Amy Bartels, whose husband died due to a crash at the intersection back in 2009 made an impassioned plea for change while flanked by members of her family.
“If you don’t do something, there will be another fatality like his…and we really don’t want that to happen anymore,” she said while holding the coat he was wearing at the time of the accident.
The force of the accident was so great, that his heart stopped beating before he had the chance to bleed.
“What could possibly be a more negative impact than this?” Bartels asked.
“This is a design that is going to fix the intersection,” Erick Bartels said. “This is the right thing to do.”
Also in attendance was Don Gattis, whose wife was injured a crash due to excessive speeds and asked about the possibility of installing traffic cameras to combat excessive speeds. Jim Schnoebelen, district engineer with the Iowa DOT, said, unfortunately, that wasn’t currently a legal alternative. It was a possibility if the law changed in between when the project got started to revisit that idea.
The current proposal on the table from the DOT is to build a three-lane bridge for County Road X20 over Highway 151 and include a diamond interchange. The proposal would cost the city Security State Bank and likely require four homes to be bought by the state, according to the environmental study.
Clair Lensing, president of the bank, said while he appreciated all the effort put into the research, he felt there had to be a better alternative. Lensing urged the department to consider another alternative.
“I think this would have a traumatic effect on Springville,” he said.
Lensing noted the bank pays about $30,000 a year in taxes which supports the city and the school, in addition to all the donations the bank makes to causes in the community.
The plans were also cause for concerns for residents whose homes were located close to the off ramps. Jeff Andrea lives on Heather Lane and expressed concern that the current plan would stunt the growth of the town as a whole, but would also negatively impact the values of the homes like his that would be right next to the new ramps.
Many in attendance didn’t understand why the option placed in front of the public was deemed to be the best option. Multiple residents asked about cheaper, less disruptive options. The most popular of which were why installing traffic lights on the intersection wouldn’t work and why the speed limit couldn’t be lowered.
“Statistically, every study’s shown if you put a traffic signal on a high-speed expressway in an isolated rural area, that will increase crashes,” Schnoebelen said. “With a project where we’re looking at increasing safety, that was something we were concerned about.”
He also stated that such a move would likely result in pushback from the traveling public, who were not in attendance.
In response to questions about dropping the speed limits, Schnoebelen said lowering the speed limits wouldn’t solve the issue.
Multiple people also asked why the bridge couldn’t be built further to the east, but that would take things through a park, which the DOT is required to avoid doing, if possible.
Other concerns raised included the fact that it would shift traffic from the Wendling Quarry, which could cause accidents including the trucks coming and going from that business, and Springville Public Works Director Todd Wyman expressed concerns about how it would impact the city’s utilities.
Schnoebelen said, given the public reaction, certain alternatives could be re-checked, but at some point, something had to be done and they had been looking at the intersection for more than a decade already.
Comments about the proposal can still be submitted to the Iowa DOT through April 2. They can be submitted online to www.bit.ly/iowadot8605222 or to Catherine Cutler, transportation planner, by mailing to Iowa DOT District 6 Office, 5455 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids IA 52404, emailing Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org or calling either 319-364-0235 or 800-866-4368.
The project currently isn’t on the DOT’s five-year plan. If they move forward with the preferred alternative, another hearing would be held down the road once plans were solidified.