Thank you to all the citizens of Linn County. I have been a Linn County engineer for 40 years and the Linn County engineer for the past 20 years.
Thank you to those that cooperated in making the Linn County secondary road system the best in the state.
Providing the 10-cent fuel tax increase and local-option sales tax allowed major investment in better roads throughout the secondary system. By spending these increases in revenue to complete stage construction started by the county engineer in the 1960s, today Linn County has 380 miles of hard-surfaced roads and 760 miles of restored rock-surfaced roads.
The secondary road system in Linn County is efficient, maintainable and sustainable.
Improving bridges and culverts throughout the county system from the 1970s to present has allowed Linn County to reduce the number of posted bridges from 184 in 1974 to 12 in 2018. Picking bridge types expected to have 80- to 100-year service life makes the bridge program sustainable. Building timber slab bridges, concrete slab bridges and large concrete box culverts allows the construction cost to be spread over the service life. Investing taxpayer revenue in a sustainable system allows flexibility and adaptability for any future.
The restoration of county roads came with participation by residents and landowners that directly depend upon them. The original system was built first by townships with owners primarily doing the work. Getting out of the mud in Iowa required cooperation and investment from the adjacent property owners. Getting a grid of county and state roads that supported traffic loads through Iowa’s notorious spring thaws required investment from all residents in Linn County, the federal and state governments and residents of adjacent counties (through fuel tax and sales tax).
Improving the secondary system raises expectations of the future condition of all county roads and makes demands on funding the system.
Prudent decisions using engineering judgment and requiring owners and developers to fund improvements directly linked to their developments has created a system based on need and assigning cost to demand.
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Constructing and maintaining the Linn County secondary road system has allowed me to work with property owners, businesses, county road crews, developers, investors, contractors, surveyors, and most county employees.
I have enjoyed most of this collaboration. I have even enjoyed working through most disagreements. I apologize to those that I might have offended over the years while trying to explain why improvement comes at a cost.
After today, April 15, I no longer will be the Linn County Engineer. I hope that those who have cooperated in building the current secondary system in Linn County provide the same cooperation afforded me to the next county engineer. Those who have not seen the need to cooperate, please give the next county engineer the opportunity to make a better case for your investment in the roads that you use.
Please drive safely and appreciate the system that is in place because of the effort of secondary road workers and county engineers since the office was created by the state Legislature in 1913.
• Steve Gannon is Linn County engineer.