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News :: Residents express concern over 'J-Turn' at Highway 218/30 intersection
· 7:21pm December 15th, 2013
There’s a new word that Benton County drivers are learning, and so far, it does not seem very popular:
J-Turn is the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) term for its plans for a new re-design of the Highway 30/218 intersection south of Vinton.
The Vinton Lions Club recently heard a presentation on the proposed changes from Blairstown City Councilman Gary Biershenk. The Benton County Supervisors met last week with DOT engineer Jim Schnoebelen, who explained why the DOT feels this is the best option and listened to their concerns.
Calling the J-turn a “significant safety improvement,” the DOT says J-turn intersections are now in use in many states, including our neighboring states of Minnesota, Missouriand Wisconsin.
The DOT, in a paper describing the goals of J-Turns also says, “This type of intersection allows traffic to flow freely, and function very much like a traditional intersection.”
But so far, his audience has been reluctant to accept this approach.
“The most efficient way – and the safest – is to put in an interchange,” said Biershenk, who has also advocated for an interchange a few miles to the west at the Van Horne/Blairstown corner of Highway 30.
With a J-turn, traffic heading south or north across thirty would first have to go either east or west, then make a J-turn into the opposite lane before heading back to the intended highway.
That, says Biershenk would be “very disruptive,” especially for heavy trucks.
While the DOT says the J-turns have been used in many states, Biershenk says an intersection that unfamiliar to local drivers should first be tried in low-traffic areas, not a busy highway with cars going both directions at 65 mph or faster.
“The thing a person has to remember is that Highway 30 was paved in the 1930s, and really other than paving shoulders there has been no design change in that road for 80 years. What we design today is more than likely to be with us for 80 years,” said Biershenk.
Biershenk has spoken to the Benton County supervisors, Benton Community school leaders and others about his concerns.
Yet, he said, it seems as though the DOT has made up its mind about the project citing cost savings and the need for buying less farmland.
Although the intersection is a few miles outside Blairstown city limits, Biershenk says most of the residents of his city use that corner regularly, and that his main job as a council member is to keep residents safe.
The Benton County Supervisors plan to discuss a resolution opposing the J-Turn during their weekly meeting on Tuesday.
Changes for Youngtown Café
The proposal would also remove the Youngtown Café entrance from Highway 30 and construct a new road to the historical site from Highway 218.
Click HERE to see the DOT description of the J-turn and its objectives for the Highway 218/30 intersection.
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