Mingo native Larry Cleverley's farm sits on Highway 330 in Japser County between two of the deadliest intersections in Iowa. As the Iowa Department of Transportation attempts to make them safer, the possibility remains that Cleverley may lose his land.
That was the subject of a public information meeting in Baxter last night. Iowa DOT has outlaid funding for the project in the department's five-year budget, and has narrowed down all of the proposed projects to just two. One would take a minimal amount of Cleverley's land and utilize J-turn intersections, while the other would require more land to construct an overpass. Of the two, Iowa DOT District 1 Engineer Scott Dockstader says the overpass will be safer, though verbal support at the meeting was higher for the J-turn option.
After the meeting, Cleverley was not optimistic
"I don't want to make anybody mad, but I think this is just a dog and pony show. I think the DOT is going to do what they want to do. They can say that they're reactive to public opinion, I'm hesitant to believe that. I'm really cynical when it comes to the DOT having been in a family that's had to deal with them for so long."
Some commentators at the meeting called for a third option, to make both intersections perpendicular to Iowa Highway 330, rather than the current 70-30 degree intersections. The change would improve visibility, but as Assistant District 1 Engineer Tony Gustafson observed, it doesn't fix the problem of drivers darting across both lanes of traffic.
"We've looked at that also, the concern here is with the far side accidents. Folks are going through the first set of lanes and then there're more severe fatal accidents, serious injury accidents that occurred on the other side of the intersection. Squaring up that intersection does not address just that incident with that accident would improve the sight distance somewhat." He says, "But we feel one alternative with the J-turn which eliminates people from crossing directly through the median at the intersection and has folks basically do a u-turn or what we call a J-turn is a safer alternative."
Gustafson says the DOT expects a project decision in early July.