Notoriously dangerous Hwy. 20 intersection may see improvements
Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
One man's tragic motorcycle accident at a notoriously dangerous eastern Iowa intersection has prompted his sister to push for greater safety there for all drivers.
August 26 started off like any day in the office for Angie Recker -- until she got the news.
"We were just told, 'Go to the emergency room,'" she said Tuesday, recalling that shocking summer day.
Her brother Jeff Ernzen had been riding his motorcycle eastbound on U.S. Highway 20 that afternoon when he was hit by a car at the Swiss Valley Road intersection.
"The gentleman that pulled to go on to Swiss Valley Road didn't yield or didn't see him, and happened to hit him," Recker said.
Ernzen survived but suffered a brain injury from which he is still recovering.
The crash prompted Recker and her husband Marty to contact their local politicians in order to put pressure on the Iowa DOT to revive the safety upgrades to the Swiss Valley Road/U.S. Highway 20 intersection.
Plans drafted in 2006 to make the stretch of road safer fell to the wayside, but recent public outcry has brought them to the Iowa Department of Transportation's attention once again.
It's people like Recker who won't let the department forget.
Iowa DOT district transportation planner Sam Shea, based in Cedar Rapids, said in early 2014 the Transportation Commission will look at a revised plan for safety upgrades to the Highway 20 and Swiss Valley Road intersection. A consultant is currently updating the 2006 proposal, Shea said.
The plan includes widening the gap between eastbound and westbound lanes, so a semi truck crossing the highway would have enough room to sit in the median and not obstruct traffic.
Preliminary safety update plans also include the possibility of a bridge with on and off ramps.
Shea said the DOT would ideally like to replace every intersection along Highway 20 from Peosta to Dubuque so that no driver would have to pull directly into traffic.
There have been dozens of motor vehicle accidents in the past decade within the half-mile stretch of Highway 20 between Swiss Valley Road and North Cascade Road.
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