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City Council looks to future of Highway 122

This news story was published on March 21, 2012.
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by Matt Marquardt –

MASON CITY – The Mason City Council met Tuesday night.

Alliant Energy Representative Jim Collins reminded the council that Alliant paid about $663,000 in taxes to the city last year and roughly $2 million to Cerro Gordo County.  He said Alliant is planning infrastructure upgrades in the city from Taco John’s west to Shopko as well as in the northeast quadrant of the city.  He said they plan to spend about $1 million.

Collins also said Alliant is still in the process of site selection for a new Alliant Energy substation.  They hope to have a site picked out by 2013 and have it operational by 2016.

Much of the council discussion focused on a major project the city is looking into involving Highway 122.  The stretch of highway in question is from Monroe Avenue east to about Carolina Avenue, where the highway is split into one-way streets.  The city is working with the Iowa DOT at possibly eliminating the one-ways.

A study would need to be done first.  The cost to the city is $20,000, which was budgeted last year and still set aside.

The project would cost an estimated $11 million, about 20% of which the City would be responsible for.  City Administrator Brent Trout told the council that dollars are already being set aside to start to cover this cost.  The project would not get started for a number of years, perhaps not until 2016.  There would be property acquisitions and other complications to consider before moving ahead.

At-large Councilman Scott Tornquist wondered if there was really any benefit to doing the project.  “These are pretty significant decisions… that will impact the community for decades,” he said.  He also mentioned that the City is looking at the downtown loop one-ways of Delaware Avenue and Washington Avenue and changing them to two-ways streets.  He thinks the two projects should be coordinated.

Councilman John Lee said he would feel more comfortable holding a work session to digest all the information before OK’ing the traffic study.  The council agreed to postpone a vote on the IDOT traffic study until April 3rd.  A work session will be held next Tuesday, March 27th.  Public hearings on the traffic and street changes are likely in the works, to get public feedback and ideas.  No solid dates were set for those.

The council unanimously agreed to pay a Des Moines company, Quality Striping, $99,915.60 to paint pavement in the city.  City Administrator Trout laid out a litany of reasons for his recommendation, including the cost of equipment and labor, liability (“painting a car” by accident), the City’s inability to get good rates on buying paint, paint spills relating to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the burdens of traffic control.

Councilman John Lee said he would like to explore the possibility of a “hybrid” solution to save costs in the future on this expense.  This would involve contracting out for some of the work and the City handling some of the work.  City workers used to, for years, paint the pavement in the city.

Councilman Alex Kuhn said “I’ll be supporting the local labor force as much as I can… but our only other option is to say ‘no’ and award the contract to Iowa Plains (the only other bidder) at $6,000 more.  I move approval.”  Kuhn did not mention how much time he spent investigating the possibility of using local labor to do the work.

In other business, the Council approved Mayor Bookmeyer’s re-appointments to boards and commissions: Isaiah Schott to the Cemetery Board, Heidi Marquardt to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Walter Schmitt to the Building Advisory and Appeals Board.

Watch video of meeting:


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17 Responses to City Council looks to future of Highway 122

  1. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Its amazing that the city can’s spend money on the downtown after HazingScape. The city is looking everywhere it can to throw money away and another waste of time and effort is about all this Trout/Tornquist city can accomplish. Don’t fix the crumbling infrastructure that could really make our town better. Just look at how much your taxes can go up for nothing. Vote them out. Is Trout an illegal alien since this town never voted to remove the mayor for an administrator? Who would know?

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      This do-nothing council has its head buried in the sand. While they worry about chamber trips to DC and one way streets, the scanner is blowing up with calls about guns, fights, confrontations, crime, discord, you name it, on the north end of MC. That area of the city is a wasteland and an embarrassment. No leadership at all from the mayor. MC is not changing for the better and they are letting it happen.

      • Reggie Reply Report comment

        March 26, 2012 at 6:16 am

        Matt I was just wondering, was the previous council a do nothing council too or did the “wasteland”,your word not mine, of the north end happen overnight?

      • Reggie Reply Report comment

        March 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

        I should remind you, we had the 3 Gods of Mason City ,theFather(Jeff),Son(Don)and the Holy Ghost(Max)on that council.

  2. Sally Anderson Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    How about looking into something more practical, like the corner of 4th Street and Virginia. This leads into a mess after a mess. The accidents seem to be daily, and getting more severe. Between being a main road through town, a main train route, and main walking area for pedestrians headed to the park, there is enough going on in one corner for it to be looked at. Even something as simple as, adding a turning lane for East and West traffic and something better for pedestrians would lower the accidents. It’s unbelievable that something has not yet been done.

  3. Jeremy Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    How does eliminating the one ways improve anything?

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Beyond a safety issue that was noted at the curved areas, I didn’t hear any reasons for it. Perhaps some type of growth or development reasons are out there. I think there are some materials in an a council packet from a year or so ago. I will try to find out.

      • Mike Hahn Reply Report comment

        March 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

        Hi Matt,

        Converting one-way pairs to a two way street is a trend that has been occurring nationally over the past two decades. One way pairs took off in the post-war years usually along US Highways to better accommodate growing vehicular traffic. One way pairs were commonly placed in densely built downtown areas or neighborhoods that were not built with the automobile in mind. The thought today is converting one-ways to two way streets improve access and calm traffic (yes, two-way streets do slow traffic) making the overall street environment safer. Over the long haul, better and safer access improves development opportunities. Ask a real estate agent if a house on a busy US Highway especially on a one-way is desirable? Usually, businesses don’t perform well on one-way streets because of restricted access and constantly being an after thought in rear view mirrors. I have actually seen over time conversions work in stimulating new development. I would favor eliminating both one-way pairs (old US 18 and US 65) in Mason City because I see that over a generation, it would go a long way in redeveloping the central part of town. So, I guess that makes me a DAFT, LOL! One of the most successful conversions in the country is Locust Street along Historic East Village in Des Moines. The conversion of that street from one-way to two way really accelerated the redevelopment of this area west of the state capital. Cheers!

        • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

          March 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm

          Mike, fantastic reply. Thumbs up all the way!

      • Observer Reply Report comment

        March 22, 2012 at 12:15 am

        If it is so important to remove the one-ways, I highly suggest diverting US 65 to another road to bypass downtown. This way, through traffic will not get tied up downtown on single lane streets.

        But that is exactly what will happen even if the highway is not diverted. People will seek other roads to avoid the mess it will become. That means, more and more people will not go downtown unless they really have to.

        And the surrounding residential areas will suffer the consequences.

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      March 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      Glad you asked Jeremy. It will not improve things. It will create further hazard for the drivers in Mason City.

      The north/south one-ways are US 65, a truck route. In addition to the current traffic flow, in recent years, hazmat has been a regular user of 65. Every hour, on a four month rotating basis, Golden Grain Ethanol ships two trucks loaded for Manly. With that, are loads of corn oil, and caustic acid. Seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day.

      Think about the 53 foot trailers of trucks coming from the Post Office, or Dollar General, trying to get onto that two-way single lane street. Think about how they will configure the north end of the loop unless they close Federal. No passing, as you wait for someone to get into a parking space (post office). Think about all the lost parking spaces on both streets if they add left turn lanes.

      Instead of two freely flowing lanes of traffic we currently have, think about the congestion as we merge two lanes into one.

      I would totally avoid, as will others I am willing to bet, the whole downtown area during daylight hours.

      And anyone who thinks this is a great idea, is totally daft.

      • observation for observer Reply Report comment

        March 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm

        I think the discussion is about the S curve on122 more than it is about Washington and Delaware. I know Tornquist talks about it, but I do think the agenda item was about 122.

      • Observer Reply Report comment

        March 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm

        The only reason I mentioned US 65 was: “ He also mentioned that the City is looking at the downtown loop one-ways of Delaware Avenue and Washington Avenue and changing them to two-ways streets.”.

  4. Leonard Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Quit waisting money on things that have no return on investment. You ALL waist enough of OUR money as it is on many other projects no one cares about or uses.

  5. sijr Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Avenue of the Saints removed most of the city’s east-west traffic as did 35 north and south…so what’s the bid deal? Another city project where nothing equals nothing! And a discussion on Delaware and Washington becoming two-ways…it’s time for city residents to ask that all of the council to be required to “pee in a cup!”

  6. Joe Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Forget the $20,000 study and forget the millions of dollars. It just isn’t worth that kind of money… city, state or federal tax dollars. It is fine as is. There are more important things to use the money on.

  7. amanda Murphy Reply Report comment

    March 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    changing (the now) 122 as been brought up before. and it was then determined to be a stupid idea then. just like like making to loop a two way street.
    so instead of spending $20K on a “study” that will say its no a good idea or it won’t work. why not spend the $20k on something that really needs to be fixed? like fixing roads and sewers that the “city Leader” seen to harp on?

    oh wait, never mind that would make too much sense.