Highway 1 upgrade, Kalona by-pass concerns aired

Posted 7/22/99

Kalona merchants fear a by-pass could “kill” the town, but area Amish residents see it as increasi…

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

Kalona merchants fear a by-pass could “kill” the …

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Highway 1 upgrade, Kalona by-pass concerns aired


Kalona merchants fear a by-pass could “kill” the town, but area Amish residents see it as increasi…

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

Kalona merchants fear a by-pass could “kill” the town, but area Amish residents see it as increasing safety factors by reducing traffic near their farms and routes traveled by their horses and buggies.

The possible by-pass of Kalona as part of a proposed upgrading of Highway 1 to a super two-lane was a key concern voiced by many of the 150 people at the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Public Information meeting Tuesday in Kalona.

IDOT planners had invited 300 residents to the session, all of whom had property or businesses in the nearly 29 mile segment that starts at the Highway 92 and Highway 1 interchange in Washington to near the US 218 interchange in Iowa City.

The upgrading plan includes a provision for a possible by-pass approximately one-half mile west of Kalona. The by-pass would start just north of the English River Bridge, go west, then re-join Highway 1 at the crest of the hill a half-mile north of the Highway 22 and 1 intersection.

Kalona council members Monday expressed concern that the by-pass would “kill” the town by re-routing traffic completely away from it. With tourism a major factor in Kalona, keeping direct access is important, they noted.

“I’d like to see the highway improved, but not have it by-pass us,” said Dean Miller, owner of Dean’s Auto Body shop that is along Highway 1. He was uncertain exactly how the proposed change could affect him, other than “having them want some of my land.”

Juanita Troyer, owner of Willow Creek Collectibles in downtown Kalona, opposes the by-pass and also had reservations about the entire upgrading.

For John Roetlin, owner of the Twin County Dairy, Inc. (cheese factory) at Highway 1 and 540th St., the project could see his business moved entirely, depending upon the need for land to the east.

However, indications are that a passing lane would be created by obtaining land to the west. The intersection is one of the worse on the highway and is the site of eight fatalities and numerous other auto accidents. In fact, the problem finally prompted installation of a flashing light across the intersection, as well as a warning light on the west side of the road.

For the area’s 200 Amish families creating a safer highway is paramount. As a result, anything that reduces traffic is favored, and Paul Hochstedler explained a plan that would create a by-pass south of Kalona, extending east towards Riverside (which it also would by-pass), then join up with US 218.

“It would make it possible for those who want to drive 65 to do it, and it would not keep people from coming into Kalona,” he said.

He stressed that the problem is not traveling along Highway 1 in a horse and buggy, but crossing it. The problem also exists for any farm machinery.

“It’s the speed that affects safety,” he said.

Hochstedler presented the IDOT with a detailed description of his plan, stressing that the issue is safety for everyone using the roadway.

Mark Kerper, planning engineer, explained that the IDOT will continue gathering input from residents, “then we will have an evaluation of it. There will be environmental studies, covering all aspects.”

The aspects include homes, farmland and business that may be affected, as well as studies of how much additional land may be needed.

Additionally, there will be on-going traffic studies, the latest of which in 1996 showed that from Washington to the Highway 1 and 22 intersection in Kalona there were an average of 4,180 vehicles per day. Of that, nearly 11 percent were trucks. From Kalona north to Iowa City, Highway 1 traffic averaged 5,960 vehicles daily, of which 7-8 percent were trucks.

Projected traffic volumes are expected to increase significantly, beyond what a regular two-lane could handle, but insufficient for a four-lane highway. As a result, the super two-lane became an option, officials said.

Results of the IDOT meeting and further planning will be presented at a public hearing within a year to a year and one-half, said Brad Hofer, planning engineer. He added that the Kalona by-pass is a low priority.

“We will maintain a presence in Kalona,” noted Lawrence T. Bryant, field services coordinator, who also said that the project will have a booth, with more information, at the annual Kalona Fall Festival in September.

Super-2 concept

Super-2 refers to a controlled access, at-grade roadway, with one through lane in each direction. Design features included in the concept serve to maximize the capacity and safety of that single through lane. These features are:

•full width lanes with partially paved shoulders and clear zones

•limited access with turn lanes when warranted

•“flatter” horizontal and vertical curves with increased design speeds

•passing and speed differential lanes (often called climbing or truck lanes)

•possible corridor preservation

The intent is to use the existing Highway 1 horizontal alignment with only slight adjustments to increase the capacity and safety of the roadway, while minimizing impacts to the surrounding community. Changes in vertical alignment will be more noticeable since the roadway grade will be modified to a accommodate the higher design speeds of the new highway.

Hofer noted that the DOT tries to place passing lanes every five miles in hilly areas. He also noted that the hills near the Kalona Golf Course will be flattened to give better view for that intersection. Plans also call for lowering the hill and moving the highway slightly east near the Twin County Dairy cheese factory to give better view at that intersection and allow better truck access to the cheese factory.

Hofer stress construction is about seven years away.