WAPELLO — A new plan to provide Highway 61 access south of Wapello when the highway is relocated in a few years solves issues raised about the state's previous design, Louisa County supervisors said Tuesday.
Assistant county engineer Adam Shutt presented the Iowa Department of Transportation’s latest plan during the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. It would relocate a connecting spur from the existing U.S. 61 corridor to the new highway and also modify a connecting roadway from K Avenue that would partially utilize the county’s 65th Street right of way.
The redesign would allow an at-grade intersection to be constructed south of Wapello, with Highway 61 traffic only allowed to make left turns off the relocated roadway. Meanwhile, drivers using the connectors would only be able to make right turns onto the relocated highway and would then need to use J-turns, which would be constructed approximately 1000 feet on each side of the intersection, if they wished to travel in the opposite direction.
Median barriers would prevent the connector traffic from driving through the intersection to access the opposite lane of Highway 61 traffic. Acceleration and deceleration lanes are apparently part of the newer design.
The new plan is similar to one presented to the supervisors on March 10, which also incorporated J-turns into the design but called for the two connectors to intersect with the relocated highway about 1,000 feet from each other.
That plan included deceleration lanes, but there were apparently no acceleration lanes included, which concerned the supervisors. The offset intersection also was a concern, which prompted the board to direct Shutt and county engineer Larry Roehl to seek a redesign by the state agency.
The supervisors agreed Tuesday that the latest proposal addressed their concerns.
“I like it,” supervisor Brad Quigley said after hearing the engineers’ report.
Shutt said he had talked with Wapello Mayor Shawn Maine and members of the Wapello Community Ambulance Service and those officials had agreed the new design was satisfactory.
“It looks like we’ve got access to south of town,” supervisor Randy Griffin said.
In another part of his report, Shutt said he recently designed a low-water crossing on L Avenue, the main access road into the Louisa County Conservation Board’s Indian Slough Wildlife Area.
Shutt said the crossing would allow vehicle traffic for most times when the Iowa River is below 21 feet. Anything higher would prevent vehicles from crossing. The roadway became more susceptible to damage after a levee broke in 1993 and was not repaired.
Flooding in 2019 inflicted more damage, prompting the secondary roads department to suggest the roadway be abandoned. However, conservation board officials have indicated the road provides the main access to the 1,100-acre area.
Shutt previously reported the Federal Emergency Management Administration had determined the roadway sustained around $196,000 in damage, and he estimated the cost for installing the low-water crossing would be about $200,000. Under federal disaster rules, the county would be responsible for 15% of the repair costs, or about $30,000.
The supervisors directed Shutt to discuss the issue with LCCB Executive Director Katie Hammond.
In another action involving Indian Slough, the supervisors approved signing paperwork to move forward with enrolling over 900 acres of the site into the federal Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program. Hammond had earlier reported a small portion of the area had previously been enrolled in the program and the latest enrollment would not affect the area’s management of wildlife habitat.
The board also reviewed a proposed tanning bed ordinance for the county.
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