Some 20 Linn County residents, heartbroken by a second fatal crash at the same uncontrolled intersection of gravel roads in northeast Linn County, chose the Board of Supervisors meeting to attend Monday, and not the latest crash victim’s funeral.
Nine of those addressed the supervisors, asking them to install four stop signs at Hills Mill Road and Upper Boulder Road where Nicholas Aberle, 20 of Troy Mills, died Oct. 2 and where Margaret Holub, 44, died on July 9, 2012.
Both crashes had similarities: the drivers who died were heading south into the intersection on Hills Mill Road and the vehicles they collided with — in the recent instance, a fertilizer spreader, and in the 2012 crash, a dump truck — were traveling west on Upper Boulder Road.
Holub’s widower, Ben Holub, of 909 Red Bridge Rd., Central City, on Monday asked the supervisors to put in stop signs at each corner of the intersection, subsequently thanked them for voting to do so and then asked the supervisors to go farther and install stop signs at every uncontrolled intersection in the county.
“Stop signs save lives,” Holub said. “… It’s a simple fix.”
Louis Zumbach, 558 Monticello Rd., Coggon, presented the supervisors with a petition for stop signs with 220 signatures on it.
Zumbach said he knew that there was an argument against stop signs on every rural road because people don’t stop at them. He agreed that rural residents don’t always stop now at rural intersections with stop signs, but he said the signs alert people at least to slow down. Slower speeds make for less serious crashes, he said.
State Rep. Quentin Stanerson, R-Center Point, also called on the supervisors to change county policy and install stop signs on all county gravels, and at the same time, he said he will draft legislation for a state response to the “issue” on uncontrolled rural intersections.
Stanerson, a teacher and coach in the North Linn school district, said he had worked with Holub and taught Aberle.
The Linn supervisors, on a 4-0 vote, approved placing four stop signs at Hills Mill Road and Upper Boulder Road.
Steve Gannon, Linn County Engineer, said the stop signs should go up on Tuesday at a cost of about $1,500.
John Harris, board chairman, said he it was “prudent to take a look at other similar” uncontrolled intersections in the county to see if they needed stop signs.
Ben Holub called on the board to set aside the county’s existing review criteria on intersections, which he said failed to result in stop signs at the Hills Mill Road and Upper Boulder Road intersection after his wife’s death in 2012.
“What faith do you have in his criteria when he’s been wrong twice,” Holub told the supervisors of County Engineer Gannon’s review criteria with Gannon sitting nearby.
Gannon, who heads up the county’s Secondary Roads Department, said his department superintendent had reviewed the intersection following last week’s crash and recommended stop signs on Upper Boulder Road. Gannon then reviewed the matter and decided to put up four stop signs at the intersection.
Gannon said the county has had an intersection warning sign southbound on Hills Mill Road for motorists to see as they crest a hill to warn them of the coming intersection.
He estimated that the county might have 200 to 300 uncontrolled intersections. The cost of signs is not the issue, but the “effectiveness of the system” of road improvements and signage is what matters, he said.
Ted Beuter, a retired sheriff’s deputy, told the supervisors on Monday that the need to look at stop signs at uncontrolled intersections was not a new topic. Beuter said the county needs to look at its whole system of signage so speed limit signs can be seen at night and signs that alert motorists of intersections and stop signs ahead are posted soon enough to help.
“Please listen to us,” he said.
Steve Goode, of rural Coggon, was among those who told the supervisors that they chose to make their case to the supervisors rather than attend Aberle’s funeral on Monday. Goode said Aberle was his son’s best friend, and he said he would have wanted Goode to come and tell the supervisors to put stop signs up.