Lots of interest shown at Floyd overpass meeting
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
A large crowd of people from Floyd and the area gathered Tuesday night to look at maps, ask questions and make comments.
The Iowa Department of Transportation held a two-hour open forum at the Floyd Community Center for people to see the latest plans for the elevated interchange at the intersection of Highway 18/27 and county road T44/U.S. 218.
The forum was unstructured, with copies of various maps laid out on tables and representatives of the Iowa DOT or Foth, the project designer, available at each table to answer questions.
Pete Hjelmstad, District 2 field services coordinator with the Iowa DOT, called it a great turnout.
“Previous meetings have also had a large turnout,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in this project.”
Hjelmstad said most of the questions were about where the ramps will be, when construction will start and how long it will last.
A sampling of those attending showed many people had questions or concerns about all Floyd traffic leaving to the south being funneled to the one intersection.
Six existing at-grade intersections — two to the west of the interchange and four to the east — will be closed.
“We all think that’s going to hold everybody up in the morning,” said Kathy Behrens, of Floyd.
“I’m concerned about the truck traffic. That’s what I’m hearing from a lot of people. Now we scoot east or west to avoid it,” Behrens said, but those intersections won’t be available.
Scott Ingersoll, with Foth, said leaving the at-grade intersections open would work against the purpose of building the elevated interchange.
“It’s about safety,” he said. “We’re trying to eliminate turning movements onto 18 as much as possible.”
Daryl Jakoubek, who has lived in Floyd for 27 years, said, “They’re gonna close off the exit by Dugan’s Restaurant, and that’s gonna be a bad deal there because all the quarry traffic goes out there. All the gravel trucks go out that way, so it’s going to put more stress on the main street.”
His wife, Myrna Jakoubek, added, “Right now we have just gobs of grain trucks going to Valero, and then, of course, the quarry’s trucks.”
Hjelmstad said it would be up to the city of Floyd and Floyd County to designate new truck routes through the area to get traffic to the overpass.
Myrna Jakoubek said they were also interested in what additional right-of-way would need to be purchased, because they live near the project.
The right-of-way purchases will just miss them, she said.
“We live right over, just a few feet from where they’re gonna start the easement out by 218,” she said. “They’re going to start just past us, right at Montgomery Street.”
Hjelmstad said one of the purposes of the meeting was to show people the additional right-of-way property that the state will need to purchase for the project.
Negotiations on those purchases should be starting “very soon,” he said, which was one of the reasons for holding this meeting now.
Floyd County Sheriff Jeff Crooks, who was also at the meeting, called the overpass “much needed.”
“This is great,” he said of the plans.
There are safety concerns with the current at-grade intersection, he said. People who aren’t familiar with the area get confused by the switch from the usual 65 mph down to 55 mph through the area, and the multitude of at-grade entrance and exit lanes.
“It should reduce the confusion of people who aren’t from around here. It’s gonna be easier for them. They’ve seen accesses like this. This is the kind of thing they’re used to,” he said about the overpass.
“The biggest thing I see is the increase in speed back up to 65,” Crooks said. People won’t be changing up speeds or changing speeds after entering the traffic flow.
“Big rigs, especially when they’re loaded, take a long time to get up to speed. Even going 55 you’re on them pretty fast,” he said.
Crooks said his deputies always wonder what they will encounter when they get called to an accident at the Floyd intersections, which has been the scene of many accidents in the past, including some fatalities.
He said when he or his deputies are in the area to monitor traffic they see frequent close calls that just miss becoming collisions.
The latest plans for the project, as well as a computer model video “fly-through” of the project, are available now at the Iowa DOT’s public involvement website.
Hjelmstad said construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2021, or after July 1 when the new fiscal year funding will become available. He said the project is on the state’s program schedule, so funding availability should not be an issue.
The plan is to continue to allow traffic through the area without detours by working on the eastbound and westbound lanes separately. There will be a detour needed for county road T44/Quarry Road for part of the construction, he said.
Residents of Floyd and Floyd County have advocated for an overpass interchange on the Avenue of the Saints for years.
The project is listed in the current Iowa DOT five-year program, which was approved last month, at a cost of $20.69 million, with major construction being completed in 2022.
The project breaks down as follows:
• July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 — $1 million for right of way purchases and $50,000 for mitigation.
• July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 — $2.834 million for a new bridge; $16.180 million for grading and paving; $64,000 for lighting and $125,000 for traffic signs.
• July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 — $436,000 for erosion control.