Residents bring up 27th street intersection…again

The 27th and Avenue L intersection project has drawn a few comments at recent Fort Madison City Council meetings. This is a rendering of what the new intersection will look like. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC.

FORT MADISON – For the second city council meeting in a row, a resident questioned the council’s direction in reconstructing the intersection at 27th Street and Avenue L.

The work, which is slated to be done this year at a cost of about a $500,000, was approved by the council to help alleviate what City Manager Dave Varley said is a high accident rate intersection.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, Mike Kruse, a school bus driver in the city, told councilors that intersections don’t cause accidents, people cause accidents and enforcing the law through traffic citations and a more frequent presence of local police at the intersection is a better option than spending the money.

“I drive a school bus and I go down 27th street going south every day. Every day I stop at that stoplight. When the light turns green I wait for all the traffic running east and west to run all the yellow and red lights before I enter into the intersection.” Kruse said.

Kruse told the council that intersections can’t cause accidents and that anyone who says that is speaking incorrectly.

“There are a lot of accidents at this intersection.. and other intersections in Fort Madison… because for a split second a person wasn’t paying attention, the car had a malfunction,  or the weather wasn’t cooperating. An intersection cannot cause an accident and an intersection cannot be unsafe.”

At least week’s meeting, city resident Bob Manka also expressed concern about the city spending a half a million to redo the intersection.

“If the city does, this they will put two curves in a half block on the south side of Avenue L,” Kruse said. “And I don’t understand why the city would tear up one straight street and put in two turning lanes.”

Kruse mentioned a quote from Driscoll from the Daily Democrat where Driscoll allegedly said, “It will be as straight as we can make it.”

“What does that mean,” Kruse asked in a prepared statement to the council. “I counted 2o some intersections in this town, why this intersection? There are six offset on Avenue L so again, why this intersection?”

Driscoll said he hadn’t read the paper so couldn’t respond to the quotes, but said a study was completed that showed this particular intersection had the highest accident rating in the city. He said after the study was done he presented the council with two options on the road. The first being a $1 million renovation of the intersection going into the Fort Madison Community Hospital and the other was the intersection at 26th and L.

“We presented to the city council, mayor, and city manager at that time a plan with the improvements we needed to do and we moved with the 27th Street intersection,” Driscoll said. “It’s poorly designed. I did not design it nor am I designing this one…just to be clear.”

City Manager David Varley agreed with both Driscoll and Kruse saying that intersections technically do not cause accidents, but he said city’s work on data and that data can’t be ignored, especially when engineering experts are brought in to verify and make recommendations.

Right now the traffic through the intersection daily is about 11,500 cars per day and the intersection has an accident rating of .97 according to Varley. The second highest in the city is .78 and the lowest is .11. The rating is based on per million vehicles through the intersection.

“This intersection is offset and it’s poorly signaled. We bought the property next door to the road, I think where a Dominos or something used to sit. If you go to the alley where Hy-Vee gas is, that new street will start there and aim toward Jim Scott’s to line that up better. You should be able to get 12 cars stacked there,” Driscoll said.

“We’re also adding a right turn lane to go right down the highway toward Hall’s Ice Cream for better flow. It is an expensive intersection. But the staff felt when we gave you a recommendation it was a good option to invest in.”

Mayor Brad Randolph told Kruse that engineers told the city this would be the best way to repurpose was to improve that intersection.

“To do that we acquired the property to the west. Because there is a house to the south and an alley we couldn’t take the whole road.  Is that an expensive fix, yeah. Would I rather see that half a million spent on something else, yeah. But I would personally lean toward matching those roads up,” Randolph said.

On Wednesday Varley said people tend to not worry about things until it’s right up on them, but said there sere seven different public forums in 12 months to discuss the project and a citizen committee was formed to have input in the project.


City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll also informed the board that work on 15th Street will begin on April 3 and that roadway will be closed for close to three months while it is being rebuilt and resurfaced all the way to Old Denmark Road. That contract stipulates it has to be 90% complete by mid July.

Driscoll also indicated on Wednesday that Avenue E in front of the Fort Madison Public Library will also be under construction starting Monday.

In other action, the council

  • voted 5-0,  to pass a 2nd reading of an ordinance vacating certain property along Avenue P to Hall Towing and set a public hearing on the vacation.
  • voted 5-0 to pass the 1st reading of an ordinance changing city code Title 9. Traffic to amend standing, stopping and parking regulations and Chapter 14 Snow Emergency Regulations. As part of the changes, improper use of disability parking spaces has a fine now of $200, illegal parking in a fire lane is $100, all other parking fines shall be $20 with a 25% increase for fines not paid in 30 days.
  • voted 5-0 to set a public hearing on the sale of property at 3034 Avenue K to Habitat for Humanity.
  • voted 5-0 to appoint Larry Driscoll as the city’s Title VI Coordinator and approving Title VI non-discrimination assurances with the Iowa Department of Transportation.
  • voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of a $12,000 cold planer.
  • voted 5-0 to approve a contract with Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission for administration services associated with a construction grant for the the Cattermole and old Lee County Bank buildings.
The above project rendering shows the same schematic in a vertical form.
The chart above shows the crash history at different intersections along Hwy 2 (Business 61)  in Fort Madison. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC.


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