DOT talks turn lanes in Hinton

Friday, July 22, 2022
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Maps displaying five different turn lane options were on hand for community members to look at during an Iowa Department of Transportation meeting held Thursday night in Hinton.

HINTON — Hinton residents had the opportunity to see five proposals for reconstruction of Highway 75 through the community, from south of Grover Street to north of West Maple Street at an Iowa Department of Transportation public information meeting Thursday, July 21.

The goal of the reconstruction project is to 1) Improve US 75 mainline traffic operations, particularly at the C-60/Main Street intersection; and 2) Improve mainline operations during frequent train blockages.

“Our purpose tonight is to show our different concepts for reconstruction of Highway 75 through Hinton,” said Dakin Schultz, transportation planner with the Iowa DOT District 3 Office in Sioux City.

“This is the final phase of that reconstruction work that we started in Sioux City with the bypass and went through with the rest of US 75 north of Le Mars and picked up Highway 60 and connected to the Minnesota border,” he explained.

“We started looking at this stretch with Merrill, and we did a study back in 2008. There wasn’t any interest at that time with the community. There’s been a change of heart locally and we’re excited that they want to look at something to do improvements to it,” he said.

The Merrill improvements included widening the highway and installing a left turn lane.

At Thursday’s meeting, residents were able to see the five alternatives under consideration by the IDOT.

“Each one provides for new pavement, four lanes for through traffic, but we have some that have a two-way left turn, so it would be a five-lane section, we’ve got some that have turn lanes with raised median, we have some that widen in both directions, and some that widen to the west only. We’ve got two that provide right turn lanes for the northbound traffic to C-60, and part of that is we recognize traffic backing up when a train is sitting there.

“All the alternatives perpetuate a stop light or traffic signal at C-60 and Main Street and U.S. 75,” Schultz said.

“Another feature is recognizing and working with the community on the development property that they have purchased just north of the city. We’re also providing a direct access off of Highway 75 to that new development (on the west side). They have it slated for commercial and residential development,” he said.

The proposals also include replacing the bridge over the drainage ditch on the north side of Hinton.

Some proposals call for expansion of the roadway to the west.

“Because of how tight this corridor is, there is property impacts,” he said. “We don’t know the overall property impacts at this time, we haven’t gotten to that level of the development.”

Back for Discussion in a Year

Once all comments are in, the IDOT will work toward a preferred alternative, and probably in a year or so would be back to talk and discuss the right-of-way impacts, and what happens next.

“We have a process for acquisition and relocation if it comes to that,” Schultz said.

Railroad Plays a Major Factor

The east side of the roadway is impacted by the railroad which runs closely alongside the roadway.

“The railroad is in close proximity to this so they are certainly impacted in that we are building right next to them. I know that this location is a very busy location and they have certainly had some interest in preserving what is there.

“We have alternatives that minimize impact to the railroad, or avoid the railroad, but we are also exploring if there is an opportunity to work with the railroad. We just haven’t arrived at anything yet,” Schultz said.

While they have had some discussion with the railroad, more in-depth discussions will occur at a later time.

Project is Part of IDOT Plan

As far as the timeline, Schultz said the IDOT is looking at right-of-way acquisition, which is in the program for 2026, and the project construction is in the five-year program for 2027.

“This project is funded and that is part of our task to get this ready for construction by that time,” he said.

Questions are Pretty Typical

Schultz said he was hearing typical comments from Hinton residents at Thursday’s meeting.

“Some are fairly typical. What’s kind of unique to Hinton is everyone wants to know if the stop light stays and it does. We’re getting ‘what’s the difference’ and ‘what’s the impacts to my property.’ Also what kind of schedule and is this in the five year program. Most are pretty typical of what we’d expect from a public meeting,” Schultz stated.

The Final Piece of the Puzzle

He indicated anytime a project is in an urban area, there are a lot of complications, such as structures and the buildings, and the utilities underneath the pavement.

“These always seem to take a little bit more to develop and design, but look at Merrill, and I think those results show that the diligence that we go through and the results are there,” he said.

Schultz also indicated the reconstruction through Hinton is the last piece of the Highway 75 project.

Next year, reconstruction will be done on the northbound lanes from Hinton to Merrill. In 2024, the southbound lanes from Merrill to Hinton will be redone.

A High Traffic Area

One part of the study was a crash analysis of intersections within the study area.

Intersections included within the study area were analyzed for crash frequency, type, and severity from 2016 to 2020 using the Iowa Crash Analysis Tool. A total of 35 crashes were reported at intersections within the study area over the analysis period.

Of the 35 crashes:

• 49 percent are rear-end crashes; this is common for four-lane undivided roadways where drivers don’t expect slowing and stopping traffic of left-turn traffic in a through lane.

• 23 percent are broadside crashes, which are collisions between the front of one vehicle and the side of another vehicle.

• 43 percent of the crashes on US 75 at Main Street were caused by drivers running the traffic signal or following too close.

The study background points out that US 75 through Hinton is a four-lane, undivided highway that runs alongside two active rail lines and several sidings serving the Central Valley Ag Cooperative (CVA), which is a major trip generator of heavy truck and train traffic for feed and grain transport.

A few common issues within this corridor include:

• Truck and train traffic are common and contribute to operational highway delays

• Through traffic on US 75 frequently comes into conflict with vehicles waiting to turn onto side streets

• Trains loading and unloading at the adjacent CVA facility often increase congestion by blocking the railroad grade crossings on C-60, adding delay on US 75 for those impeded by vehicles waiting to turn onto C-60

• The Hinton Public Safety building is located within this corridor; therefore, emergency service response times are regularly affected by the operational issues on US 75.

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