Hearing held about dangerous intersection


County Engineer Derek Snead addresses the crowd of roughly 100 people on Jan. 9 during a public hearing about Old Dubuque Road/Highway 151. The joint meeting was conducted by Jones County and Anamosa. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Several family members of victims of accidents at the Old Dubuque intersection were present for the hearing. Delbert Aldrich of Manchester, father of Shelli Gray who was killed in November, thanks Sheriff Greg Graver for his support.
County, Anamosa form committee to discuss options
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The intersection of Old Dubuque Road/130th Street and Highway 151 will remain open until Jones County and the City of Anamosa decide just what course of action to take. 

Both government entities held a public hearing on Jan. 9 at the Anamosa library. The room was full with approximately 100 people. 

While neither body voted to vacate or close the intersection immediately, they did vote to form a joint committee to discuss options should they decide to close it in the near future. 

At the start of the meeting, both County Engineer Derek Snead and Sheriff Greg Graver addressed the crowd with some background information about the intersection in question. Also present were Rep. Lee Hein, DOT representatives Roger Walton and Willy Sorenson, and family members of those who have lost their lives at the intersection. 

“It’s hard to argue the data. The data is clear. This intersection is one of the most dangerous intersections in the state and by far the most dangerous intersection in Jones County,” said Graver. 

He also asked everyone to be respectful of the loved ones in the room when it comes to discussing the tragedies at the intersection. 

“I have personally seen some of the hateful comments posted on social media about this and about some of the victims involved through the years at this intersection,” Graver said. 

Snead shared some facts about the intersection, noting that 12,000 vehicles a day pass by on Highway 151 at this location. Of that, 5,000 vehicles a day access Old Dubuque Road, and 600 vehicles on 130th Street to the east. 

“You don’t generally see an intersection that impacts that many people have the possibility of closing,” said Snead. “But we do feel strongly that this one has some things that need to be discussed. We’ve been talking about this particular intersection for about 13 years now. 

Here we are in 2020 and we still haven’t gotten any farther.” 

Several Anamosa residents and property owners spoke during the hearing, most saying they would support the closure of the intersection only when a solution is found to keep it open. That solution, Snead said, might be a frontage road that connects Old Dubuque to Parham Drive to the north. Many also praised the county and Anamosa for having the foresight to form a committee to explore future options. 

Matt Behrends with the Anamosa Development Corp. thanked the governing bodies for coming together to find a positive solution. 

Conrad Shada and Scott Wilson, who both own busines ses/commerci a l property on Old Dubuque Road, said closing the intersection would be detrimental to their businesses. 

“I understand there have been some serious accidents. I totally understand the issues,” said Shada. “But closing it down without a plan in place will open up a whole can of worms, not just for us, but for the community.” 

He said he doubts the City of Anamosa wants cattle trucks coming through town, especially when they cannot make the turns at many of the town’s intersections. 

Wilson said the business that rents his commercial property would likely be forced to find another location should the intersection close. “Talking to the owner of one of the businesses, he’s afraid if the intersection were to close down, leaving him without a solution. I’m all about a solution. All about something safer. Overall for the town, closing it without a solution would be more detrimental than positive.” 

Dave Remley felt that closing the 130th Street intersection would pose more of a threat to public safety because traffic would be rerouted through residential neighborhoods. 

However, Remley favors closing the Old Dubuque intersection, but not until a solution is found. 

For some time now, the DOT has been working to install additional flashing warning lights on 151. Several people said the extra warning lights and lowering the speed limit to 55mph would help with the number of accidents. Both Snead and Graver disagreed. In fact, Graver said just as the DOT installed those very same lights at another dangerous intersection, a fatality took place. 

“The lights are not a fix,” said Graver. “It is temporary to get us by. Neither is decreasing the speed limit. When you have vehicles moving at a variety of speeds at a curve, it is going to make it much more difficult, not easier, for traffic to judge when to pull out on that intersection.” 

Karen and Mark Malejko live on Old Dubuque Road near the intersection. Both have also served on the Anamosa ambulance department, and have responded to numerous accidents at the intersection. 

“This recent accident, I apologize to the family of the young lady for saying this, but it was horrific,” said Karen. “You need to close this road and keep it closed.” 

Mark disagreed. “I do think it should stay open until it gets explored.” 

Bill Goodman said if the road closes, it would impact the growth of the Anamosa community. “You close that road, you’ll never have anybody move in.” 

Katelynn Buchholtz who lives in the new Meadowridge development in Anamosa, said many young families moved into that area because of the lack of traffic. Once 130th closes, she fears for the children with increased traffic being routed through their neighborhoods. 

“We need to complete that neighborhood before we start sending additional traffic through it,” she said. 

Tammy Dearborn, who owns property on Breca Ridge Drive, agreed with Buchholtz. “But we need foresight to grow our community and not hinder the growth there. If you make that a dead-end street, all those trucks and traffic will have to find their way through that area. I don’t think that those people that are paying some of our highest property taxes in town are going to appreciate all that traffic coming down their street.” 

In closing, Graver said while it may be an unpopular decision and while he’s running for re-election this year, he is 100 percent for closing the intersection to save lives. 

“On the evening of Nov. 6 of last year I spent several hours at the hospital with family and friends of the victim. That night the question was posted, ‘Where are we going to do something about that intersection?’” said Graver. “I’ve lived here my entire life. That intersection has been the scene of countless deaths and serious injury accidents. At the end of the day, my decision is if the closure of that intersection results in the saving of one life, I would sleep better at night. The longer we keep the intersection open, we already know it’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when someone else is going to get killed out there. We don’t have a lot of time to do this. Doing absolutely nothing is not a solution. It’s time to quit talking about it and time to start taking action and save people’s lives.” 

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