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Should Highway 30 be four lanes through Cedar County?

Iowa DOT asking for comment on what people, from Lisbon to DeWitt, think

A truck drives down Highway 30 on July 1 in Clarence. The Iowa Department of Transportation is gathering input this month about whether to expand Highway 30 through Cedar County, which would include Clarence. (The Gazette)
A truck drives down Highway 30 on July 1 in Clarence. The Iowa Department of Transportation is gathering input this month about whether to expand Highway 30 through Cedar County, which would include Clarence. (The Gazette)

Construction funds for expanding Highway 30 through Cedar County are not in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s five-year program, but the agency will gather public comment this month on its planning study findings and preliminary recommendations.

The Iowa DOT will host a public information meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at North Cedar High School gymnasium, 400 Ball St., Clarence.

The meeting will be an open forum format with no formal presentation. Iowa DOT staff will be on hand to informally discuss the planning study. About 20 boards and easels will be set up with information on the route as well as long, scrolled overhead views.

Public comment on the planning and environmental linkages study the DOT conducted — from just east of Lisbon to just west of DeWitt — likely will be included in information presented to the state Transportation Commission in October.

If given a green light by the commission, work can continue on obtaining the necessary environmental clearances, according to DOT transportation planner Sam Shea in the Cedar Rapids office.

The information at the Sept. 19 meeting will be a “higher altitude look” at Highway 30 so the commission has “all the tools it needs to make a decision,” Shea said.

Among the options the DOT and the commission may consider are “whether to go with four lanes or to do nothing, whether we may want to do three lanes or passing lanes or just safety improvements at intersections,” he said.

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At a previous public information meeting, Shea said, the DOT heard from “numerous people who thought making Highway 30 four lanes through Cedar County would be a waste of money. Others thought it was the best place to spend money.”

“We really saw both sides of the coin last time, and I expect to see similar responses this time,” he said.

Some people would like to see the four-lane, freeway-style highway around Cedar Rapids, which is being extended to bypass Mount Vernon-Lisbon, continued to the Mississippi River.

However, Shea said the traffic volume through Cedar County has increased just 1 to 2 percent over the past decade. That may suggest a “super-two” — with passing and turning lanes, rumble strips and safety improvements at intersections — may be appropriate.

In determining which option to pursue, the DOT and the Transportation Commission will look at such factors as safety and how long a driver has to follow farm equipment or trucks before having an opportunity to pass, Shea said.

According to the US 30 Coalition of Iowa, the 331-mile Highway 30 is the state’s longest highway, a corridor spanning 12 counties where about one-fifth of Iowa’s population lives. The coalition advocates for improvements and four-lanes that its members believe will make for safer and more efficient travel across Iowa as well as increased economic activity.

Although there have been arguments that expanding Highway 30 to four lanes across the state would reduce the need to add lanes to Interstate 80, Shea said traffic modeling based on vehicle origination and destination extending as far as Chicago doesn’t support that thought.

The modeling shows that only 10 percent to 13 percent of I-80 traffic would shift to Highway 30, “and that doesn’t solve our I-80 concerns.”

Making I-80 six lanes from West Branch to the Quad Cities is a consideration for the Iowa DOT.

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The North Cedar meeting room is accessible for people with disabilities. People who need special accommodations may contact the DOT at (319) 364-0235.

More information is available at iowadot.gov/pim.

There is an Oct. 3 deadline for submitting comments and questions about the proposal at bit.ly/US30PEL.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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