One construction project kicking off this week in Dubuque is concerning some drivers and business owners because it's slated to span two years.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is fixing the approximately 1.3-mile stretch of US Highways 151/61/52 between the Twin Valley Road intersection and the South Grandview overpass. The vast majority of people coming from Cedar Rapids, Iowa City or the Quad Cities and heading into Dubuque and beyond to Illinois, Wisconsin or northern Iowa pass through this intersection.
This coming spring, summer and fall, drivers will have to contend with traffic congestion there.
According to Iowa DOT engineer Hugh Holak, the department is replacing the stretch's bridge over Catfish Creek, which Holak said is nearing the end of its life, plus repaving the road, which is filled with cracks and potholes. Holak also said the DOT will do some grading on the road to make the hill less steep. It will also build up the median between the two northbound and two southbound lanes.
On Monday afternoon, a crew with Selco Inc. was already placing traffic control markers along the highway in advance of the official April 1 project start date. Jade Griesinger was on that crew.
"It's that time now, April first. It's usually when we get everything going," he said of construction season, which is a great time for folks in his business.
"Absolutely! Paycheck's getting a little better," he said.
However, for business owners near the project, such as chiropractor Dr. Jennifer Klein, whose office sits in sight of the intersection, the project's promised traffic congestion poses an inconvenience at best and a customer deterrent at worst.
"I think that it's going to back up traffic extensively, and, of course, my patients will have a hard time getting here," Klein said Monday at her office. "The quick visits, stopping in, things like that, people will avoid them because it will be more trouble than it's worth to head out this direction."
Adding to area businesses' frustrations and concerns is the fact that the city of Dubuque conducted work at that intersection two years ago. Klein said she didn't lose any business due to that traffic congestion but she heard from other businesses around her who did. None of those businesses are anticipating another possible hit to their bottom line.
Still, the Iowa DOT asks for the public's patience as it improves the roads.
"I'm sure it'll be great, it's just getting through it," Klein said.
"It's not going to get done all at once," Griesinger said. "People just have to be patient. We'll have a better road when it's over with, I'm sure."
The construction's traffic impact will be especially bad late April through early July, Holak said, when crews are working to extend the left turn lane at the intersection on southbound Highways 151/61/52. During that extension construction, the turn lane will only have room for three or four cars and the other southbound traffic will have to share its lane with any overflow from the turn lane. In other words, southbound traffic will be stop-and-go if there are more than three or four cars waiting to turn left onto Highway 52 south, toward Bellevue.
The project is set to begin April 1, though Holak said some southbound lane closures will begin as early as Tuesday.
The project is set to span two construction seasons, with southbound improvements happening this year and northbound improvements happening in 2014.
During the interim winter, all four lanes of Highways 151/61/52 - the two northbound and two southbound - will be open. During construction this year, however, southbound lanes will be closed for improvements and the two northbound lanes will become two-way, two-lane traffic. In 2014, the directions will switch.
By contract, construction in both 2013 and 2014 will go no later than Nov. 15, Holak said.
The Iowa DOT is holding a public information meeting on this project Thursday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Dubuque's Table Mound Elementary School. DOT staff members will be on hand to field questions.
Holak said the department is not creating or endorsing an alternative route, since any logical detour leads drivers through residential areas, which he said the DOT likes to avoid.
The entire project cost is $14.85 million, Holak said, with that majority of that coming from federal funds. The state and city are also helping pay for it.
For more information on the DOT's construction project of US Highways 151/61/52, click HERE.
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