The intersection at south Superior Street and Fairmeadow Drive opened Thursday afternoon to traffic, ending a summer of detours and controversy over a strip of median installed as part of the project.
The project started in late April and was plagued by the heavy rains through the summer. Motorists were detoured around the courthouse and back onto Superior Street, and those wishing to visit Kmart and other businesses in that complex were routed in from Des Moines Street and Fairmeadow Drive.Also constructed this year was the new Red Bull Division Drive that created a new east-west roadway, running along the south side of the Hamilton County Courthouse to the new Hospital Drive. Stop lights were installed at the Superior Street and Fairmeadow Drive intersection as well as medians meant to guide motorists into a turn lane both on the north and south side of the intersection.
That strip of concrete median has proven to be the most controversial part of the project. Local citizens and farmers have questioned why the median was necessary and why painted lines would not have sufficed.
"People don't pay attention to painted lines. Our driving habits have gotten sloppy," he said. "The islands (medians) are there to keep you in your lane."Sadler said many other roadway projects around the state are installing medians to help improve safety.
"People need to look around at some of those projects," he said. "Fifth Street in Fort Dodge - islands. A new project in Ames - islands. A project in Des Moines - islands."Webster City isn't the metropolitan area that those cities are, but Sadler said the size of the city doesn't matter.
"It's still state money, and the DOT is trying to prevent accidents. Head-on collisions occur because people don't pay attention to paint," he said.Some have argued that the medians make the roadway too narrow and therefore impossible to move large trucks and heavy equipment pieces from one side of town to another. Dennis Longhenry, of Webster City, was one of those farmers who discussed the matter with Sadler. "That street is the most direct route from the land we farm south of town to the land north of Webster City," he said. Longhenry said the roadway was too narrow for his dual-wheeled implements. He said that there were alternate routes he could take, but other farmers weren't as fortunate.
Don Nokes drove his dual-wheeled tractor through the area of Superior Street where the median narrows the road. Local residents and area farmers have commented that the area is too narrow for large vehicles and implements to maneuver.
A road grader with a blade was also driven from the north and then from the south on Superior Street through the median area Thursday afternoon without touching the curbs.
"I asked (Sadler) when they were going to tear it up so we as farmers could get through with our duals on tractors and combines," Longhenry said. "He said 'We don't want farmers driving big equipment through our city.'"Sadler denied making that comment and said that he just asked Longhenry why he needed to bring the large equipment through the community.
To prove that the road was indeed wide enough for dual-wheeled tractors and trucks, Sadler brought in a tractor and a road grader with a blade to drive through the area with the median shortly before the road opened Thursday. Both vehicles were able to navigate past the median without touching the curbing on either side.Sadler said that recently a tractor took out the rails on one of the bridges in the community.
"That's why they built all of the county farm-to-market roads," he said. "If you can't fit through this median, you won't fit at the elevator."
The city manager also pointed to section 321.297 of the Iowa code that states vehicles must yield half of the roadway.
"There's a lot of people around here who say that within a year these medians will be gone," Sadler said. "Well, no they won't. We don't have the $700,000 that we'll have to pay back to the state if this street no longer meets (DOT) guidelines."
"This street gets 10,000 cars per day," he said. During the detour, the auto count was likely higher due to the road construction west of Webster City on old Highway 20, he said.
|• March 2000 — Petition was presented to the city council requesting a traffic signal at the intersection of Superior Street and Fairmeadow Drive.|
|• 2001 — A Traffic Engineering Assistance Program Study was conducted.|
|• January 2003 — The City Council recommends that the project be reconsidered and that the timing of the project be delayed until future development of the area is determined.|
|• 2005 — An updated TEAP study was authorized and funded by the DOT.|
|• April 2008 — Traffic Committee discussed the proposed new Superior Street access to the Hamilton County Courthouse.|
|• June 2008 — City Council passes resolution supporting the board of supervisors requestion for a new access to the courthouse and hospital.|
|• May 2009 — The city enters into a Surface Transportation Program agreement with the Iowa DOT to provide partial funding for the project.|
|• January 2010 — Plans and specifications prepared; project has proceeded through federal-aid process at DOT; bid letting scheduled.|
|• April 26, 2010 — Concrete Technologies Inc., Urbandale, begins work.|
|• Sept. 30, 2010 — Street opens for travel.|
Contact Anne Blankenship at email@example.com or call 832-4350.