[Masthead] Fair ~ 54°F  
High: 70°F ~ Low: 43°F
Monday, May 2, 2016

Le Mars Highway 75 bypass project is now complete

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Don't you love it when a plan comes together." Dignitaries cut the ribbon Thursday morning, signifying the completion of the final leg of the Le Mars Highway 75 bypass project. The eight miles bypass is part of a $227 million project. Le Mars mayor Virgil Van Beek remarked that "With our southern door now open, we can once again welcome people back to Le Mars."
"Forgive me for quoting the 1980's television show, 'The A-Team,'" smiled Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Neal Adler, "but don't you just love it when a plan comes together."

For Adler and many of the dignitaries in attendance, Thursday morning's ribbon-cutting for the final leg of the Le Mars Highway 75 Bypass project was a long time in coming.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony, held on the 200th Street bridge, the southernmost interchange taking traffic from the new Highway 75 into the south end of Le Mars, marked the completion of the city's bypass project.

The eight miles bypass is part of the massive $227 million project, four-laning Highway 60 from Le Mars to the Minnesota border, which is slated to be completed later this year.

"We're now ready to start a new chapter for our community," Adler said, "because, today, there is a 'new front door' to Le Mars."

He quickly acknowledged the bypass could not have been completed without the help of city, county, and state government, or without assistance from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Le Mars Mayor Virgil Van Beek admitted the project, marked by delays and requiring a rerouting of traffic around the city, caused hardships for businesses located on Le Mars' south side.

"It seems odd that we're having a ribbon-cutting today," he explained, "because the bypass has been open since last fall."

"We just made it difficult for everyone to get into town," Van Beek added.

"'Where's the beef?' 'Where's Waldo?' Where's Le Mars?"

That's what the mayor said he'd been hearing from concerned constituents since a detour began taking traffic away from Le Mars and onto Highway 3.

With the detours coming down, Van Beek said travelers will be able to drive through Le Mars with relative ease.

"Our southern door now open," he offered. "We can once again welcome people back to Le Mars."

"Come on in," Van Beek gestured, "the door's open."

The bypass project, initiated in 1996, was meant to be completed in five to six years, acknowledged Iowa Department of Transportation Commission chairperson Suzan E. Boden.

Instead, due to environmental concerns, issues of cost, and other delays, the project took 11 years to complete.

Despite the delays, she said the $43 million project will be beneficial not only for Le Mars, but for all of northwest Iowa.

"The state needs as many good corridors as it can get," Boden remarked.

According to Boden, the new 200th Street bridge will bring approximately 11,000 vehicles into Le Mars on a daily basis.

This, she says, will increase to 14,500 vehicles in the 20 years, with 18 percent being truck traffic.

"This new traffic will include travelers, commuters, and trucks bringing goods and services," Boden speculated. "That is always good for the future of a community."

But she admitted it's always more pleasant talking about the maintenance and preservation of a bridge than the construction of one.

"Enjoy your new bridge," Boden smiled, "and drive safely. You have a good one here in Le Mars!"

Scott Langel said he is just happy to put the file on the new bypass away.

"The city staff always say I can't seem to put a file away," Le Mars' city administrator joked, "and no project ever seems to be completed."

"THIS is a project that's been completed," he announced proudly.

Langel acknowledged that discussions for the bypass began 11 years ago but it was only in last seven years that the project began taking shape.

"It couldn't have been completed without the partnership the city had with the county supervisors, the state, and the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT)," he observed. "It couldn't have been accomplished without everybody working together."

The IDOT's Darwin Bishop said the bypass will allow drivers to travel more quickly.

"To a lot of people this might sounds like a bad thing," he admitted. "Hey, the new highway will only make it easier for folks to bypass Le Mars all together."

According to Bishop, this won't be the case.

"People will be more likely to visit Le Mars," he suggested, "because of the time and money they'll be saving going from place to place."

Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce's Dave Smetter is in complete agreement.

"This'll give us a chance to reintroduce ourself as a community," he said, "and have people rediscover all of the great things that Le Mars has to offer."

To that end, Smetter announced the start of a multimedia campaign that will coincide with the opening of the Highway 75 bypass.

"The slogan 'Come On In' will be promoted to encourage people to rediscover our community," he said.

The concept, Smetter informed, came from an idea from Chamber member Mike Wells and was quickly approved by the Chamber's marketing, retail, and promotions committees.

"After all, what's more inviting than a friendly welcome?" Smetter asked.

Marketing funds from Hotel/Motel tax dollars are being used for the advertising campaign which is expected to run until the end of the year.

"Our initial TV spots," he continued, "will start running right after the ribbon cutting."

"Perfect timing, right?" Smetter said with a laugh.

"Come on in," Smetter smiled. "Le Mars is once again open for business."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration:

© 2016 Le Mars Daily Sentinel