BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – An Iowa DOT official said Thursday that high-level talks are on-going to help alleviate traffic snarls as Siemen’s blades navigate the tight roads around the facility.
District 5 Engineer Jim Armstrong, of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Fairfield office, said initial conversations began this year to look at four different locations where logistical improvements could help alleviate some problems.
He said currently talks are focusing on the Highway 218 intersections at Hwy. 61 east of the facility, and at Hwy. 27, west of the facility. He said two other locations at 260th and 280th Street and Hwy. 61 are also being discussed.
As it stands now, when blades come out of the facility on 260th Street and turn right headed southbound on 61, traffic is stopped to allow the long windblades clearance on both southbound lanes to access the highway.
The same scenario occurs further down the road on the hill up Hwy. 61 before the right turn onto 218, where blade-hauling semis use both lanes to get the angle for the right-hand turn.
Armstrong said the same situation occurs at the 218/27 intersection.
“We are in conversations with Siemens about those intersections,” Armstrong said Thursday. “Those high-level discussions address how they enter the roadway and so forth. But the important thing here is that there is no funded project underway. And there may not be one.”
County Engineer Ben Hull, said he has not been approached by anyone to be part of the conversation, but said 218, 61 and 27 are all state and federal highways and the county wouldn’t have jurisdiction. However, one of the roads is a county road and he would be open to discussing that when, and if, the time comes.
“We’d work through the state and they have programs for safety and Economic Development for any potential funding,” Hull said.
Lee County Supervisor Gary Folluo said he hasn’t been involved in the conversations, but said he welcomes the conversation because traffic can get sticky when the blades are being moved.
“That’s what we’re hoping for. 218’s a pretty narrow road anyway. Shoulders need to be developed.We don’t want to see traffic held up, especially on that hill where trucks need a run at the hill anyway,” he said.
Armstrong agreed that the roads are tight for what Siemens needs to do.
“We had the same issue with traffic stalled and stopped on 61 and 27 with escorts. They just don’t have enough real estate. Were looking at very high level conversations to get a free manuever to get into traffic flow and merge safely,” he said.
“Once we get some information then well approach who and how a project might come together and be funded.”