Plans for Hwy 218/Cedar Wapsi interchange unveiled - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Plans for Hwy 218/Cedar Wapsi interchange unveiled

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

The Iowa Department of Transportation revealed plans to improve the safety of a dangerous Black Hawk County intersection. This summer alone, two drivers have died in crashes at the intersection of Highway 218 and Cedar Wapsi Road. Nearly a dozen crashes this year have left drivers injured.

It was a non-fatal crash in September that -- as Sheriff Tony Thompson put it-- was the straw that broke the camel's back. The next day, he called for meeting with the DOT and community leaders to find a solution to the problem.

"We can't take five more years of picking up the pieces, scraping off the bodies from the road. We can't do that," he told KWWL News at the time.

Tuesday is the first time the DOT is offering a solution. They included a plan for that intersection as part of a larger presentation to the community. The DOT is planning to make some major changes to Highway 218 between Janesville and Waverly, and Tuesday night they were looking for public input.

"We know we're going to get a good crowd with a lot of comments. That's what we're here for," spokesperson Pete Hjelmstad said.

The primary focus of the meeting in Janesville was to talk about the five alternatives for the highway, but much of the talk revolved around a map of intersection of Highway 218 and Cedar Wapsi Road.

"Something absolutely has to be done at that intersection," rural Janesville resident Elaine Slade said.

Slade is one of the people at the meeting with a very personal interest in a solution. She drives past Cedar Wapsi Road twice a day. This summer, her commute turned from routine to life-threatening.

"On August 18th, I was coming home from work, innocently driving on the inside lane on 218," she recalled. "I was about 25 feet from the intersection. I saw him pull out...all I could say was, oh no."

Slade walked away from the crash, but other drivers are not as fortunate.

"It was a week after my accident to the day, the exact same scenario happened. And that was the last motorcycle fatality," she said.

"It's heart-wrenching when you know that's not just a statistic. That's not just an evening news story. It's personal lives, and the lives of families," Thompson said.

The DOT is considering an overpass crossing Highway 218. It would require crews to relocate the railroad west of its current location. However, it's currently just a proposal. There is no funding in place, and the earliest it could be constructed is 2016.

"We've got a plan, we've got research and surveys and studies. But now we've got to get it funded. And now that's the next, hard step for all of us," Thompson said.

It may be hard, but it's a step which Slade believes we can't take soon enough.

You can find more information about the projects proposed by the Iowa DOT by clicking here.

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