Residents meet again to consider Mount Vernon Road improvement plan

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Diane Stefani, 62, lived off Mount Vernon Road SE growing up and now uses it daily on her commute to work.

Over time, the appearance of one of the city’s busiest roads has deteriorated and truck traffic has increased, she said.

Stefani, a steering committee member for a city-led effort called the Mount Vernon Road Corridor Action Plan, wants aesthetic improvements, such as capitalizing on the road’s history as part of the Lincoln Highway.

“I’d like to see it branded,” she said. “It’s the old Lincoln Highway. We can use that.”

Stefani was among dozens of residents who attended the second of three public input meetings for the action plan, which includes Mount Vernon Road from 10th to 44th streets SE, on Monday evening at All Saints School. Mount Vernon Road has been prioritized as being in need of “TLC,” Stefani said.

The plan aims to identify short- (one to five years), medium- (five-plus years) and long-term fixes to not just the road but also the surrounding area in hopes of making aesthetic and functional changes to address traffic flow, walkability, appearance, safety and other aspects that have been criticized.

At a first meeting in June, which drew more than 200 people, the city cast a wide net for ideas. The second meeting Monday narrowed those ideas into a handful of possible steps in one of three categories: circulation, land use and character.

Removing overhead power lines and timber poles was the top-ranked action among 10 possible character improvements. Phasing in roadway, median, turn lane, sidewalk and crosswalk improvements based on the most congested area was the top of seven circulation ideas. And restricting uses that are not neighborhood-friendly was the top of four land use actions.

A third forum planned for October will narrow the feedback from Monday’s meeting into a specific plan that the City Council could adopt by the end of the year.

Dan Alpers, 40, was among a number of skeptical residents after the first meeting, but he now considers himself optimistic. He was pleased that ideas from the first meeting informed the action steps presented at the second meeting. He had safety and function concerns and liked seeing improvement options, such as no left turns, at intersections with 15th and 19th streets.

“The city knows we are watching,” Alpers said. “If you want our input, we expect you to listen and react, and I think they did that.”

Nancy Sauer, 66, liked the possibilities identified as well. She said she would like to see attributes that have made the New Bohemia District a destination applied to Mount Vernon Road.

“There’s a collective sense of excitement, walkability, variety and space for people to just be, and I’d like to see that here,” she said.

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