BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – The Green Bay Township trustees informed Lee County Supervisors of their displeasure with the current suggestion to close the 180th Street crossover at Hwy 61.
In a letter sent to the supervisors dated May 5, the trustees said all feedback they’ve received has been 100% against closing the crossover.
The letter signed by Brian Burk, Deb Ireland and JD Henshaw, all trustees on the township board and Charlie Rump, clerk of the trustees board, also said while the facility was being built thousands of truckloads of materials came in, per day, with minimal traffic complaints. In addition, the trustees indicated thousands of construction workers came onto the property daily, many using 180th Street, so traffic delays would be reduced even at full capacity.
The trustees also said the closure could result in southbound traffic going to the top of Jollyville Hill, making a U-turn on 185th Street and then going back down the hill to make a right onto 180th Street. In addition, the trustees were concerned limiting that access could cause delays in emergency services because the Wever Fire and Rescue uses the fertilizer plant for filling their pumper trucks with water.
Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa Fertilizer plant officials, along with Lee County officials held a conference call April 27 to discuss the issue further. The final decision rests with the state, but IDOT officials have said the IFC needs to address issues with an acceleration lane northbound on Hwy 61 off 180th Street and making improvements to 180th Street to handle the extra truck traffic before they would issue a permit to close the crossover.
“Let me make sure I understand this, we own 180th Street right. So we can do whatever we wish,” said Supervisor Don Hunold. “So we could say, ‘You can do whatever you want to but were not going to let you have 180th. And if we did that then this whole thing would just stop. They can’t get to the road.”
Supervisor Ron Fedler said IFC will only control truck drivers on their own property, so they couldn’t control where they exited because they didn’t own the property.
“They could recommend it, but they couldn’t enforce it,” Fedler said.
Rick Larkin said another tact would be to ask for a refund of the money used for the Rise Road because there was funding allotted for that.
“There’s a lot of money going to be put into that intersection. The state may come back and say “Hey, we gave you money for that other road’ and they may want that back because those were RISE Funds.”
Supervisor Matt Pflug asked the question as to why these issues weren’t discussed in the preliminaries.
Supervisor Gary Folluo said they were part of initial conversations.
“That was the discussion and everyone agreed that for safety factors they needed a road to connect 190th to Hwy 61 north and south,” he said. “That was the discussion. And that’s why they proceeded with the Rise grid.”
Lee County Engineer Ernie Steffensemeier said IFC is estimating $3.5 million for additional right of way, as well as everything that IDOT is requesting before any permit was issued for the work.
“And that was on the high side,” he said.
Steffensmeier said trucking companies would spend about $2.3 million annually running around the Rise Road, or J50, to get back on Hwy 61.
Several options put forth by the trustees included: a weight limit on 180th Street with an exception for local farmers; trying to get IFC’s shipping department to work with truckers using J50; and/or waiting until the plant is running at full capacity so truck traffic volume can be accurately evaluated.
With the issue in the hands of IFC and IDOT, the county is relegated to waiting to see what comes from future conversations as to what options are available.