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J-Turn: Residents discussing DOT proposal for Highway 30/218 intersection

There’s a new word that Benton County drivers are learning, and so far, it does not seem very popular:

J-Turn.

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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Comments (4)

How about finishing the 4-lane upgrade to HWY 30 through Benton County before tinkering with experimental intersections?

By: Paul Williams on December 16th 2:47am
If I understand this correctly if I want to go straight across 30 or turn left onto 30 I would have to first turn right then make what in my day was called a U-turn. I fail to see how making people travel further and make a U-turn in the middle of highway 30 improves traffic flow and safety.
By: Brad Anderson on December 16th 12:57pm
I see a very limited benifit by completing this proposed change to 218/30 corner. The main benifit is a money savings compared to building a new bridge at this intersection. I do not see this as a safety improvement to this intersection. Something needs to be done here, but this proposed idea is not a good plan. Confused drivers will make poor decisions, and this will lead to confused drivers.
By: Bill Ervin on December 16th 1:17pm
I have spent a fair amount of time working in metro Detroit where this type of intersection is the norm for in-town, heavy traffic areas. The intersection keeps traffic moving well and is no problem for trucks to navigate. It is certainly no more difficult or confusing to learn than the round-abouts that are becoming so common.

This should be far less expensive, take far less space and be completed far quicker than either a round-about or any kind of overpass. Which makes it seem like a good first step.
By: Jay Lash on December 16th 1:24pm

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