IOWA LEGISLATURE

Iowan pushes for rural road rumble strips after death of close friend

Woman tells lawmakers of Nov. 30 crash in Benton County

Emily Madsen of Ankeny speaks with (from left) Sens. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, and Chris Co
Emily Madsen of Ankeny speaks with (from left) Sens. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, and Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, on Wednesday, following a Senate transportation subcommittee hearing on a bill dealing with requiring rumble strips at rural highway intersections. (Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
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DES MOINES — Emily Madsen isn’t a paid lobbyist, but her tearful appeal Wednesday for a law change she believes would have saved the life of her friend resonated with senators who put the transportation bill on a fast track.

The Ankeny woman came to the Capitol to push for Senate Study Bill 3101, which would require the construction and maintenance of “rumble strips” on paved county roads with a 55 mph speed limit where they intersect with a major state or U.S. highway.

A similar measure, House File 2004, has been filed in the House.

Having such a rumble-strip requirement may have prevented her friend, Baylee Hess, 26, of Des Moines, from failing to stop her vehicle at an intersection with Highway 30 in Benton County. She drove her SUV into the path of a semi trailer truck on Nov. 30 and died from her injuries.

“Baylee was a very big inspiration. She traveled across the country. She followed her heart and loved like no other and for us, as family members and close friends, we want something good and positive to come out of this,” Madsen told members of a Senate transportation subcommittee Wednesday.

“We’re just hoping to impact lots of lives and to save other friends and family from having the same heartache,” she added.

The Senate bill would direct the state Department of Transportation to put rumble strips — indentations carved into a roadway that create a “rumble” when vehicles pass over them — on all paved county roads that intersect with state and federal highways.

The requirement would apply to county blacktops where the speed limit is 55.

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Sponsors of the legislation say such safety measures currently are now located at the discretion of state Department of Transportation officials, but they believe rumble strips could be installed by cutting grooves in the pavement at a relatively low cost.

The rumble strip additions would help address drivers who are distracted by electronic devices or who are sleepy as they approach sometimes busy intersections, they say.

Madsen said a similar fatal crash near Muscatine could have been avoided by rumble strips. Since looking into the issue, she said, she believes there are “countless intersections” the bill would impact.

“This is impacting a lot of lives,” she said. “It’s very detrimental to locals but also people who are just traveling through Iowa, which is very common. So if there’s a way that we can make a meaningful impact of her passing and continue on her legacy, I would like to see that happen.”

Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said Hess’ fatal accident happened in his district, and he believes the legislation would make rural intersections safer.

The bill gained unanimous consent from the full committee Wednesday afternoon and is slated for consideration by the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.

“These roads come up on you quick when you’re driving, especially in the dark,” Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, said. “I think anything that we can do to make them safer I’m in favor of.”

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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