Officials favor closing dangerous intersection

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The talk continues with regard to permanently closing the Old Dubuque Road/ Highway 151 intersection outside Anamosa. 

Last week, county officials met with the Anamosa City Council and city staff to get their thoughts on closing the intersection. The council and county are now both on board to have it closed. 

Sheriff Greg Graver, County Engineer Derek Snead and County Attorney Kristofer Lyons all spoke to the Anamosa Council during their meeting on Nov. 25. The following day, all three were back in the Jones County Supervisor Board Room to bring the supervisors up to speed. 

“This is nothing new,” prefaced Graver in front of the Anamosa Council. “The intersection was discussed about 10 years ago and the city was involved with that. The DOT and the county was also involved, about what action to take, if any, when it comes to the intersection and the number of fatalities and serious injuries that are occurring at that intersection.” 

Graver said despite a long discussion at the time, nothing was done. 

“I was not in a position of authority at that time. Now, as elected officials, it’s time to quit talking and take some action,” he urged. 

Graver and Snead looked at data complied at the intersection, at all major intersections in the county, and both agreed that Old Dubuque/151 is the most dangerous intersection in Jones County. This takes into account both serious injuries and fatalities. 

Snead said there are 73 intersections in the county where either a major injury or fatal accidents occurs. “This particular location has nine of those incidences,” he said. 

“Primarily, most of our problems are southbound. But both lanes are problems because it causes distractions for drivers trying to get through the intersection,” explained Graver. 

Snead said the curve and rate of speed at which vehicles travel coming south is not the standard anymore for a roadway like that. 

“The roadway for the southbound traffic coming from Monticello, it’s the same alignment they used that was built in the late ‘60s,” said Snead. “The curve is a little bit sharper than how typical DOT roads are designed now. The northbound lane is more gradual. The southbound lane is much sharper. Design considerations weren’t quite what they are today. The standards have increased for those safety reasons.” 

Furthermore, Graver shared some statistics of the intersection. Of the major injury accidents that occur in Jones County, 8.6 percent occur at this intersection. 

While the Highway 151 intersection at Springville is known for its accidents, Graver said the Anamosa intersection sees more fatalities. Snead said about 1,200 vehicles a day use Old Dubuque to access 151. In Springville, it’s about 1,900 vehicles a day. 

The DOT put together a list of the top 200 dangerous intersections across Iowa. The list, which came out in 2017, analyses four years of data. Old Dubuque had 23 major incidents in a four-year period, which Snead said is way too high. 

Convenience seems to be the only reason to keep the intersection open, and Graver said that is just not a reasonable excuse. He timed himself driving both the Old Dubuque exit and the Highway 64 exit; it took him only 11 more seconds taking the 64 exit. 

Closing the intersection, Graver said, does not keep people from accessing any businesses. While people use the 130th Street turn-off to access the golf course (Fawn Creek), Graver said those people have an alternative with Kaitlynn Avenue from Highway 64. 

“It would add a little bit of a commute to the golf course,” he said. 

Snead said only about 580 vehicles use Kaitlynn Avenue every day to access the highway. 

In addition, it would eliminate traffic through a major school zone in Anamosa. Graver spoke to school officials who confirmed that they no longer allow school vehicles (vans, buses, etc.) to use the Old Dubuque intersection, despite the middle school’s location right off the intersection. 

“They have taken that important step,” he praised. 

“When emergency responders are telling their spouses and kids to not use that intersection because it’s too dangerous, then why are we allowing the public to do the same thing?” he proposed to the Anamosa council. “Us, as elected officials, need to take into account whether we’re going to leave the intersection unchanged for a matter of convenience. If we are saying yes to that, basically we are saying we accept the amount of deaths and serious injuries that are going on out there. For the record, I am not willing to accept that.” 

Both Graver and Snead said there is a way to extend Old Dubuque to Parham Drive, which is something that could be discussed in the near future. 

Snead spoke to DOT representatives, and they are also on board to close the intersection, despite being in the midst of installing more warning signs and lights of traffic traveling on 151 as they approach the intersection. 

“The fewer intersections the DOT has, especially the dangerous ones with a history of fatal crashes, they are on board,” Snead said. 

“If you want to make one singular attempt at making Jones County’s roads safer, this is the absolute safest way of making one impact and creating the biggest change for fatal crashes,” continued Snead. “This one singular intersection would really increase the safety in Jones County in general.” 

Anamosa Council member and newly elected mayor, Rod Smith, said while he’s not against closing it, he just asks that the county not rush into it until all views are looked at. 

“We need to work through this and have a discussion about the complete closure,” he said during the Nov. 26 Jones County supervisors meeting. “Anamosa could be faced with the redirection of traffic, and we’ll need to address the intersections with heavier traffic flow to allow time to troubleshoot.” 

“The more time we drag our feet on this, the more opportunities for something to happen again,” warned Graver of the danger at the intersection. “The public is screaming for us to do something.” 

All of the Anamosa council members were in agreement the closure needs to happen, and voted to work with the county to hold a joint public hearing to give the public the opportunity to voice their thoughts as well. 

Once the intersection is closed, Snead said it would take some time for the DOT to physically close it by removing the approaches and crossway with regrading involved. He informed both the city and county that there are DOT safety funds available to assist in the cost of closing the street. 

“We’d be a very good candidate,” Snead said. “You have the possibility for financial assistance.” 

“From my viewpoint, it does make it inconvenient,” said Supervisor Wayne Manternach of the closure. “But we’re not eliminating all of the ways to get into Anamosa, especially on a more controlled basis. I’m all for shutting it down.” 

Before landing on a date for a public hearing, County Auditor Janine Sulzner suggested both governing bodies wait until after the new year when new Anamosa city officials take office following the recent election. 

“We need to prepare for a large crowd just in case,” warned Supervisor Ned Rohwedder. 


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