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Changes ahead for busy Merrill intersection

Monday, June 22, 2009

The community of Merrill may soon get some relief for a busy intersection with four-lane traffic that buzzes through town.

Iowa Department of Transportation officials released their five-year road improvement plan this month, and Merrill is listed in it.

In 2012 and 2013, the DOT is going to move forward with widening Highway 75 where it intersects with Merrill's main street, also C-44, and adding turning lanes, according to Dakin Schulz of the Iowa DOT.

"We were trying to look at a concept that would improve operation and safety," Schulz said.

The work will stretch from just north of the railroad crossing in southern Merrill to near the bridge approach at the north end of Merrill.

The DOT's decision comes after Merrill's mayor Rich Husman, the city's police chief and other representatives met with DOT officials last August to plead the case for a safer intersection.

"We went back through the last 10 years and that intersection had one fatality and several bad accidents. It kind of opened our eyes," Husman said.

In their research, city officials found more than 12,000 cars pass through the intersection in 24 hours.

Husman likened that traffic load to funneling I-29 through Merrill daily.

"Plus there's the increase from the ethanol plant -- about 100 trucks a day -- and it's the main intersection in town," Husman said

Merrill and Hinton, Husman said, are the only two towns the four-lane Highway 60/75 runs through in its course.

City officials had heard the DOT was planning not to do any more small town bypasses, so they sought some design changes instead, visiting with DOT representatives.

Now, according to the five-year improvement plan approved by the DOT commission June 9, $1 million is being set aside for purchasing right of way for the Merrill project in 2012.

Then, in 2013, DOT officials are setting aside $1.7 million to grade and pave turning lanes and widen the roadway around the intersection.

Schulz said the presentation Mayor Husman and the city's police chief gave helped move the project forward.

"It was sobering," Schulz said.

Husman would like to see the DOT take the roadwork a step further. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crosses Highway 75 in southern Merrill.

The crossing is dangerous, Husman said, because it crosses four lanes of highway traffic and jams traffic when a train is crossing.

He'd like to see that crossing changed.

"That's the only place between Kansas City and Minneapolis like that," Husman said. "What's going to happen?"


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It would be better to bypass Merrill and Hinton, each would cost about the same. Get an overpass for the highway over the railroad would be the safest thing to do. But that might be too simple and would prevent ripping up US-75 every few years in Merrill...

-- Posted by Michael Lamb on Mon, Jun 22, 2009, at 10:05 PM

I never could figure out why Merrill and Hinton were the only towns over this long stretch of highways that were not bypassed. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Seney hasn't dried up and disappeared since it has been bypassed. Of course, Seney doesn't have a police force out there writing tickets either. My apologies to my friends on the Merrill and Hinton PD. I know they're just doing their job out there slowing down people who fly through their towns, but it doesn't have to be this way.

-- Posted by Mark S on Tue, Jun 23, 2009, at 12:23 PM


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