Three Iowa Department of Transportation proposals to improve a dangerous intersection at the entrance to Springville off Highway 151 were largely rejected at a public meeting Wednesday evening.
Motorists crossing the four-lane highway are unable to see southbound traffic, leading to a number of serious crashes in recent years. The intersection, formerly ranked the 24th most dangerous in the state along an expressway, has improved to 32nd with the addition of flashing lights warning of oncoming traffic.
The three alternative plans proposed by the DOT, which would involve construction of on and off ramps, would not be completed for four to five years, according to Cathy Cutler, DOT area transportation planner. They also could lead to either the closing or relocation of Security State Bank and a nearby Casey's General Store.
Springville Mayor Rick Heeren favors a different approach, which he contends would be less costly without impacting nearby residential property owners or businesses.
"I think we need to raise either Springville Road (County X-20) to the east of the intersection, or raise the low part of southbound Highway 151 before you reach the intersection," Heeren said. "We can make it safe without messing up the entrance to our community or displacing businesses."
Heeren said the state also needs to reduce the speed limit from 70 miles per hour to 55 for a half-mile north and south of the intersection.
"When Highway 151 was originally built, it was a four-lane highway," he said. "Now, they want to call it an expressway.
"We have driveways and gravel roads that intersect with it, and school buses stop on the highway to pick up and let off children. It cannot be considered an expressway."
Clair Lensing, president of Security State Bank, opposes all three DOT alternatives, including a plan that would provide a rear-entrance road to his bank and the Casey's convenience store.
"We feel there are less costly options, including raising Springville Road from east to west for about a mile out of Springville (which) will improve visibility," Lensing said. "We also feel lowering the speed limit to 55 miles per hour and adding overhead traffic lights will reduce many of the problems significantly."
Improving the intersection cannot come quickly enough for Patrick Kos of Springville.
"It doesn't matter how long it takes, as long as it gets done," said Kos, whose car was struck broadside in 2011.
"I remember pulling up to the intersection and the next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. I came within inches of losing my life and I still get nervous every time I approach that intersection," he said.
For Laura Kos, the near loss of her husband means something needs to be sooner than later.
"I've told the DOT that I think they need to put a stoplight at the intersection as soon as next month," Kos said. "Until all the studies, design, funding and construction are done, we need a light there to protect lives."
The DOT's Cutler said the agency will consider all the public input and make a final recommendation to senior management for their approval. It would then move to the Iowa Transportation Commission to decide whether to fund the project.Although one of the alternatives would involve reconstruction of a Springville city street, she said no local funding would be required for any project.