The Iowa Department of Transportation held an informational meeting Tuesday night at Crossroads Baptist Church to gauge public opinion about the potential construction of an interchange on U.S. Highway 30.
The intent for the construction would be to refine traffic operations and improve safety on 580th Avenue and U.S. 30 between Ames and Nevada, according to the DOT. Tuesday gave the public a chance to look at the preliminary outline of the proposal.
“We just want to make sure that there’s good access and it’s also safe for people,” said LaVon Schiltz, executive director of the Nevada Economic Development Council.
The proposal entails constructing frontage roads along with a three-quadrant interchange, meaning the interchange will occupy three of the intersection’s four quadrants, to replace current access points to U.S. 30 that have been deemed to be unsafe because of increasing traffic levels. A 580th Avenue bridge would go over U.S. 30 under the proposed plan.
“Traffic in the area is currently not that high, but it will grow,” said Tony Gustafson, an assistant district engineer with the DOT.
According to the DOT, traffic volumes east of 580th Avenue have already increased from 8,500 in 1992 to 15,000 in 2015 and are estimated to increase from 15,000 to around 21,000 in 2040.
The construction, in total, will cost around $14 million, including $400,000 for right of way acquisition, $3 million for a bridge, $6.5 to 7 million for paving new roads and $3 million for grading.
Discussions on this project began Jan. 12, 2012, with a blank-map public involvement meeting.
The initial proposal was to build an intersection at Airport Road. Al Kockler, a Nevada task force member said he fought against that proposition.
In a separate project, the DOT also plans to rework Sixth Street’s intersection with U.S. 30 in Nevada into an interchange as well, keeping drivers from having to wait for an opening in oncoming traffic on U.S. 30 to turn onto Sixth Street. Instead, a bridge would go over the highway.
Simply closing the Sixth Street intersection would severely limit access to Nevada’s Main Street, said Kockler. While the interchange would alter the entrance to Nevada, Kockler said that access to downtown would not be an issue.
Kockler has been following this issue for approximately three years and has been involved in many heated debates.
“(I) spoke to (Sen. Chuck) Grassley … I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had these meetings,” Kockler said.
Public reception to the plans was relatively mixed at Tuesday’s meeting as people discussed the proposals around the project outlines. While some said that the construction will enhance safety levels, overall efficiency, and local businesses, other farm and business owners in the area said they are concerned about truck traffic and where it will enter the highway.
“If we’re going to continue to grow our industries, we have to have good access to major highways,” Schiltz said.
This project is part of the 2018-2022 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program, a program that places emphasis on safe mobility through the improvement of the highway program and other aspects of Iowa’s transportation system.
The DOT anticipates reaching a consensus on a final design in 2019 and finishing paving the road in 2023.