Iowa DOT Continues Bypass Discussion

The discussion at the Oskaloosa Middle School last week was a potential US 63 bypass of Oskaloosa.

The discussion at the Oskaloosa Middle School last week was of a potential US 63 bypass of Oskaloosa.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The future of travel was a point of discussion at a recent meeting involving the Iowa Department of Transportation and residents of Mahaska County.

The DOT held the pubic information meeting for a proposed U.S. 63 northwest bypass of Oskaloosa. This gave the DOT an opportunity to discuss conceptual alternative for the bypass, and it’s study area.

This was the second meeting on the project from the DOT. The first was August 15, 2013.

The current US 63 design stems from the 1930’s when drivers may have depended upon services provided in the next town. Today, modern vehicles cruise at higher speeds, are more reliable and the public demands more efficient travel, for time and safety concerns. “The destinations were the cities,” said Jim Armstrong of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Farm to market was the primary builder of the road system during that time. “Today with the change of technology, the size of the equipment for the ag operations, the commodities, the trucking industry, we’re more than moving freight,” Armstrong explained. “What we want to do is, our mission is to move people, move you as safely and efficiently as we can.”

According to the DOT, between 2003 and 2012, there were 459 crashes on the segment of U.S. 63 within the Oskaloosa city limits. Iowa DOT states this is approximately twice the statewide average for similar roadways.

The DOT is studying if a bypass in the vicinity of Oskaloosa will improve safety and, ultimately, operations of U.S. 63. Three proposed routers are being proposed for the bypass. All three alternatives will have a common interchange at Iowa 163 and Mahaska County Road G-43 (235th Street).

Some residents in the potentially impacted area shared many of the same concerns as were raised during the regional airport discussion. They came and asked questions of the DOT, and wanted to make sure they had a presence at the information meeting.

Citizens are worried about eminent domain taking farm land from families and their businesses. Concerns about government impacting one business negatively, like that of a family farm, and ultimately benefiting other businesses at the expense of another.

Jim Armstrong, with the Iowa DOT, was s on hand to answer questions and listen to the concerns of citizens. He said that determining the boundary area for the study is in order to eventually install a roadway. He said that plans are to have the environmental assessments done by December of 2016.

There were three proposed routes being presented. This in order to “give good conversation,” said Armstrong.

The need for the bypass came out of the larger study of US 63 that had been funded by the US 63 Coalition. This came also after portions of US 63 were added to the ‘Commercial Industrial Network’, an indication that the roadway carries an elevated commercial traffic count.

One of the recommendations of that study was a safety issue in regards to truck traffic at the intersection of Highway 92 and US 63. “The DOT listened to that from that study and talked to the coalition and we agreed there’s an issue there,” said Armstrong.

The proposed Super Two highway would be approximately 4.8 million dollars per mile. This is a cheaper alternative to a 4 lane highway system. If built, the old US 63 roadway system that makes its way into Oskaloosa will come under local control and funding.  “So we get out of the city,” Armstrong said.

The proposed Super Two would facilitate more safety features and provide for safer passing scenarios, “than the old 1928 designs you see on US 63 now,” Armstrong said.

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