SIOUX CITY | As the traffic backs up day after day near the expanding CF Industries plant, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors is weighing steps to reduce the jam.
It could be the latest in a series of changes that have altered the network of roads near the nitrogen fertilizer plant, at 1182 260th St., west of Sergeant Bluff and Salix. CF officials are making renovations estimated to total more than $2 billion by completion in 2016.
The backlog of vehicles comes with employees traveling to the plant. Traffic backs up from about 5:30 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. at the beginning of the workday; even longer waits start about 5:30 p.m., when workers leave for home, CF Plant Manager Nick DeRoos said. The delay is often 40 minutes or longer.
"Waiting an hour to get in and out certainly would frustrate anybody," DeRoos said.
CF spokeswoman Kim Mathers said peak employment for work on the expansion could reach 2,500.
Supervisors Chairman Mark Monson, of Sergeant Bluff, said it was time to address the growing pains accompanying a project that will give the county a boost, with more jobs and higher property tax revenues. The supervisors will consider a proposal during their weekly meeting Tuesday.
"It is a county problem, and it is on county roads. We need to help out a $2 billion project the best we can," Monson said. "This discussion should have taken place a year or a year and a half ago."
The supervisors will discuss placing two to three sheriff's deputies along roads to give motorists an alternative to traveling down Port Neal Road, then onto 255th Street to 260th Street. The county may remove one or two stop signs along that new route, which could include portions of 235th Street, and station deputies to ensure a continuous flow.
Sheriff Dave Drew said he wants to help with the solution.
"The stopping really clogs the traffic up. It flows better if somebody is directing it," Drew said.
Roughly 2,000 people working on the expansion enter and exit the expansion site through a single gate on Allison Avenue on the north side of the property. All materials arriving on trucks for the expansion also arrive via that route. Roughly 200 CF employees who operate the existing plant enter the south side of the property from the east, off Port Neal Road on 260th Street.
Another contributor to the gridlock is that, "unfortunately, all the roads that serve the construction site are gravel roads," DeRoos said.
County and state money has been used to build two new roads to support the expansion project.
The county borrowed $927,000 to extend 240th Street between Allison and Andrew avenues, along with improving a portion of Andrew Avenue. The L-shaped, 1.25-mile gravel road opened in late 2014. CF officials requested the new road to provide a secondary route.
The new 240th Street ends at Allison Avenue, near the north entrance into the plant.
"It certainly has reduced the total traffic going up Allison and has become the preferred truck route," DeRoos said.
In another road project, the county is also working on a $3.8 million one-mile paved road, called CF Drive, leading to the site. The state is covering $3 million of the cost. That road will be completed this year.
"We don't see that alleviating much of these traffic issues," DeRoos said. But it will be beneficial in mid-2016, when the new plant additions go into operation, he added.
DeRoos said some people have wondered why a road hasn't been added on the plant's east side to ease the congestion, but he explained it wouldn't be practical with so much construction activity in that area.
Overall, he said he is pleased with the attention county officials have given to the project.
"Woodbury County has done a good job of trying to maintain the condition of roads so we can get people in and out of here," DeRoos said.
The traffic snafus haven't dimmed his enthusiasm about the expansion project, which includes a series of structures with mind-boggling dimensions in various stages of construction.
He said the expansion will create an estimated 700 spinoff jobs for other firms working with CF. The extra property tax take for the county is estimated at $130 million over 20 years.
"This is a world-scale fertilizer facility being added to an already really world-class operation. It is just exciting," DeRoos said. "I don't think we ever thought this would be easy, so we're not disappointed or anything. We are excited and looking forward to getting the place started up safely."