Intersection plagued with accidents to be improved - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Intersection plagued with accidents to be improved

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

A series of crashes are raising questions about the safety of an intersection in Black Hawk County.  The most recent crashes, on Highway 218 near the intersection with C-57 Cedar Wapsi Road took the life of one man, 72-year-old James Patten of Jesup.

The good news is you can expect to begin seeing road construction crews setting up shop along Highway 218 in the next couple of weeks.  I-DOT says the improvements along the intersection are a direct result of the large number of serious crashes that have plagued the intersection for years.

At any given time, you'll find cars zinging along Highway 218 near Cedar Wapsi Road at 70 or more miles an hour.  As cars attempt to creep out onto the highway from Cedar Wapsi, those speeds can often lead to collisions.

"The frequency of accidents up there is certainly disproportionate for us as compared to other intersections.  But obviously because it's the speeds of highway, probably pushing interstate speeds, every time we get a call out there, it's obviously concerning.  We have more fatalities there, more serious injury accidents," said Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson.

That's why Sheriff Thompson says it's important for drivers to be extra careful along that part of the highway.

"It's important that people slow down.  It's important that they be patient.  We've had more than enough accidents where people just misjudge distance or misjudge speed," Thompson said.

A few safety measures are already in place along the intersection to remind drivers to slow down.  There are rumble strips on Cedar Wapsi/C57 and a reduced 55 mile per hour zone on 218, noted by signs with flashing lights.  But those things haven't done much to cut down on serious crashes.  So the Iowa DOT will soon be making more improvements in an effort to make the crossing safer.

"We will be adding a right turn, offset right turn lane for northbound US 218 traffic to eastbound C57 traffic.  So what that does is it removes the traffic from the main line and moves them further, so vehicles coming off C57 will have a better line of sight," said Pete Hjelmstad with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

An acceleration lane will also be added along northbound 218 for drivers merging off of Cedar Wapsi.  They're small improvements that I-DOT hopes will make a big impact in saving lives.

That construction project will cost about $500,000 and will take two months to complete.  The Department of Transportation encourages drivers to really slow down in the construction zone to avoid having an accident. 

Once the upcoming construction project is done, the DOT will be reviewing the changes to see if they're helping reduce crashes.

I-DOT is also in the design phase of a highway interchange at Highway 218 and Cedar Wapsi Road.  But the department is unsure if funding can be secured to actually construct an overpass.

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