BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – According to County Engineer Ernie Steffensmeier, the Iowa Fertilizer Company wants to close an intersection to cross traffic on Hwy 61.
The issue was brought up as part of the Lee County Board of Supervisors’ workshop following the regular meeting Tuesday at the Lee County Sheriff’s office.
The proposal, which, according to Steffensmeier, would be paid for 100% by IFC, would eliminate the crossover intersection at 180th Street, which is the roadway on the north side of the facility that hooks up with U.S. Highway 61 just west of the plant. The plan would also include constructing an acceleration lane on the northbound side of the highway that would allow trucks to get up to speed before joining the main highway,.
However, most of the supervisors hinted at opposing the idea because it puts undue burden on county residents in the area.
County residents, including farmers, coming from the north would have to go to the cloverleaf and use the new J50 extension or RISE roadway to access property in the Green Bay Bottoms, which is 4.2 miles. The other option would be to exit the highway at Wever and take 358th Avenue back into the bottoms.
Supervisor Don Hunold said he was leery of doing anything else in the area that would put additional burden on the residents of Wever and the Green Bay bottoms area.
“I’m gonna promote that from here to heck and back,’ Hunold said. “I think we’ve done a lot for the fertilizer plant and I’m not sure I want to burden those residents anymore.”
Steffensmeier said the final decision rests with the Iowa Department of Transportation, but it’s his understanding that the fertilizer company would pick up the cost.
“100% of it,” said Supervisor Gary Fulluo.
“It would actually be up to the DOT if that crossover is closed or not,” Steffensmeier said.
“They’re gonna have to figure out another access and the closest would be through Wever and that could cause a problem with accidents,” Supervisor Ron Fedler said.
“I’ve called a couple folks in the bay area and I think they’ve given up quite a bit already,” Hunold said. “Now you’re gonna force people to go either through Wever and back to the crossover or down by the BP to get down that lane. This road takes them right down to their property. We put a brand new highway in for them and now they want to close that crossover. I think we’ve done enough.”
Ben Hull, assistant county engineer, said the DOT actually started throwing some of this around.
“I would absolutely agree that this is an inconvenience. That’s 220 trucks coming and going when they get to peak. I’m not going to say that it’s a convenience for them, it’s a safety issue and they are taking it serious because they are talking about penalties for the drivers. So it is about safety.”
“The only one this is going to benefit is the truck drivers not having to go 4.2 miles around the RISE and to the interchange. This is a time issue,” Fedler said.
Steffensmeier said all the traffic coming from the north would have to come up to the interchange and get on the RISE to get the plant. Fedler said that 70% of the truck traffic in peak season would be going north out of the facility.
Folluo said if the crossover is closed, enforcement is going to have to be enhanced on those other roads east and south of Wever that will attract lots of heavy traffic in lieu of the trek up to the interchange.
The board recommended that Chairman Rick Larkin write a letter on behalf the supervisors and send it to the DOT outlining the supervisors concerns.
“I understand the safety part of it, but I know its a state decision, and I think it will cause some animosity with the residents down there,” Fedler said.