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SIOUX CITY | One wreck, two people involved, minor injuries.

Woodbury County officials plan to spend $750,000 on a bridge next year north of Moville, Iowa, in part to lessen usage of a nearby intersection some people called unsafe. That is an intersection where a total of one collision has occurred over the last 17 years.

Journal research into Iowa Department of Transportation statistics shows state officials are aware of only one wreck since 2007 where County Road K-64 meets Iowa Highway 140. Further, Woodbury County Engineer Mark Nahra said his office has compiled stats back to 2000, and no wrecks took place from 2000 to 2007.

An IDOT report showed the sole collision occurred on a morning in May 2011, when a teen boy driving in daylight turned north from the K-64 stop sign and in broadside fashion struck a southbound vehicle on Highway 140. The two people involved in the crash received minor injuries.

"I recall no other accidents at this location in my period as county engineer since Jan. 1, 2009. I think the people speaking with the board exaggerate the safety issue at this intersection," Nahra told The Journal.

After hearing from concerned Moville residents, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors decided in April to replace a bridge on Haskell Avenue that had been damaged in floods. The people said permanently closing the bridge was misguided, and having it open would lessen the number of people using the nearby intersection.

County officials then juggled projects in order to repair the Haskell bridge in 2018, which resulted in seven bridge projects in rural Woodbury County being delayed by one year each.

Many Moville residents choose Haskell Avenue as the quicker way to reach County Road K64 to the north than going via Iowa Highway 140. Those three roads essentially form a triangle, with Haskell as the shorter option than Highway 140. Nahra said closing Haskell would mean a drive of one-half mile longer, something that might cost drivers a minute of time.

Haskell Avenue is about a half-mile long and only one farmhouse is on the road. The road's bridge has taken hits in two severe water events from McElhany Creek over the last four summers, so the bridge remains barricaded.

During the April board meeting, the supervisors heard from eight residents who wanted the bridge and the tiny Haskell Avenue section re-opened as a "short cut."

Dennis Rumohr, Tom Swanger, Howard Logan, Bob Logan, Kurt Nash, Bill Hulse, Julie Rumohr and Moville Mayor Jim Fisher all cited difficult turning at the K64 intersection.

"I haven't talked to anybody who doesn't think that it is a dangerous intersection," Nash said.

County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor said it made "very little sense" to close the bridge, citing safety concerns and since an estimated 200 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

 Fisher in April said the turn coming off K64 onto Highway 140 is troublesome, since a hill to the north gives a sight distance of only 500 feet. Nahra said the sight distance is about 700 feet.

This week, Nahra said the sight distance for the vertical curve north of the intersection has a design speed in excess of 70 mph.

"I know it is not a right-angle intersection, but there is no significant accident history at this location," Nahra said.

Woodbury County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Ung said, "While the orientation of that intersection is not ideal, that IDOT collision statistic shows it is not dangerous."

Supervisor Keith Radig cast the sole April vote against the repair. Radig argued the county should improve safety at the K64 and Highway 140 intersection by moving the K64 connection a bit farther south. Radig and Nahra roughly estimated that might cost $250,000.

The earliest the new bridge could begin is July 2018, in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

"It was worked into the multi-year plan at the request of our constituents, but it was always understood to not delay other approved projects in FY18 (this current year). If Moville follows its planned growth, the importance of the intersection that includes the Haskell Avenue bridge will only increase," Ung said.

There is a trickle-down effect to undertake the Haskell repair, as seven bridges projects will get delayed. Nahra looked at inspection reports for the bridges currently in the five-year plan for 2018-2022, to determine which had similar estimated repair costs and could be pushed back.

The bridges delayed from fiscal year 2019 to 2020 are on Jewell Avenue four miles southeast of Moville and on 240th Street east of Anthon near the Ida County line. Those delayed from 2020 to 2021 are on Taylor Avenue south of Cushing and Lenox Avenue east of Pierson.

Bridges delayed from fiscal year 2021 to 2022 include one on 150th Street two miles southwest of Pierson and another on 335th Street three miles west of Danbury. Lastly, one bridge was moved out of the five-year plan, and presumably to fiscal year 2023, with a structure east of Pierson on Minnesota Avenue.


County and education reporter

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