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Highway 330 plan at Baxter is too costly

Published: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 11:37 a.m. CDT

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Thousands have voiced their opinion about the Iowa Department of Transportation’s plan to proceed with an interchange at the Baxter blacktop and Iowa Highway 330, the diagonal split four-lane between Interstate Highway 80 and U.S. Highway 30.

A public hearing was held, and substantial statewide discussion and media attention has been directed to the project. Although this is just one of many dangerous intersections in the state, I am not supportive of the proposed construction of a $15 million-plus interchange at the site.

My personal reasons follow:

• Cost. I compare this interchange to one at Bondurant on Highway 65/330, and one at the confluence of highways in front of S.E. Polk High School (Highway 163), between Pleasant Hill and Prairie City. At Bondurant and SE Polk are four-way stop lights. Adequate signage and flashing approach lights, along with rumble-strips approaching the intersection, visually and audibly notify drivers what lies ahead. Thus, why not the same for the Highway 330 location? These are effective, proven and affordable vs. a sum that is a major hit to the Road-Use Tax Fund, comprised of your gas tax dollars. I see no justifiable reason for a major interchange, which takes substantially more than 100 acres of land, and costs at the very least $15 million.

• Loss of productive land. The required land to be purchased and/or condemned by IDOT is significant. This is Cleverly family land, initially mostly nonproductive, but naturally developed over a century for fruits, herbs and vegetables. Row crops also exist along Indian Creek. Cleverly’s kiosk is prominent at the weekly Des Moines Farmer’s Market, often selling all their weekly harvest from the family farm. Generations of the Cleverlys are known for their nurturing and stewardship of their beautiful landscape.

• Cultural losses. Heavily forested oak and hickory ridges on the Cleverly farm contain the cultural remains of native Americans. The State Archeologist has just completed a “dig” at various locations where the interchange would be built, and found several very important cultural sites. One appears to be a communal kiln where pottery was made for families of the Woodland tribe. Dating methodology shows the kiln to be approximately 1,600 years old. Close by, a knapped stone knife was found, and the type of flint, shape and method of pressure knapping, indicates it to be 9,000 years old. Archaic and Paleo habitation sites such as this are rare in Iowa, and should not be destroyed or tampered with. These are cultural treasures to be protected.

Iowa’s Road-Use Tax Fund is in dire straits. The Legislature is being asked to increase the gasoline and diesel fuel tax to address the degradation of Iowa’s roads and bridges.

In my opinion, this $15 million-plus could be better spent completing current projects.

An example would be the  U.S. Highway 20 four-lane into Sioux City, a project that has been underway for decades, connecting Dubuque and Sioux City with points in-between.

The bottom line is simple. If four-way stop lights and associated signage, flashing lights and rumble strips do the job at Bondurant, SE Polk, and hundreds of other locations across the state, surely they would work at the Baxter interchange with Highway 330.

• • •

If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me at dblack@black4senate.com or call (515) 975-8608.

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