With about 230 vehicles per day passing through, the section of E. Main Street Road (County Road E35) running east from Zeller Avenue to the Tama County line is one of the most heavily traveled gravel roads in all of Marshall County. During Tuesday morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting, several residents in the area told the board that for safety reasons, it’s time to pave it.
Brandon Swartz spoke first and shared the story of his great-grandfather, who was hit and killed by a gravel truck along the same road when his son — Brandon’s grandfather — was just 11 years old.
“Not paving the road and expanding it essentially made it a high speed gravel road. The daily traffic volume has increased tremendously,” Swartz said. “It creates a lot of hazards safety wise, as well as dust and pollution.”
Swartz also noted that several roads in the county with a lower daily traffic count than this section of E. Main Street Road are paved, and he showed a video of traffic passing through on a typical morning. In addition to traditional passenger vehicles, he said, large trucks carrying heavy loads often pass through the area.
Another speaker said the road becomes impassable in the winter and that several people have nearly been killed because drivers don’t stop at the stop sign. Pam Wilson told the board she has nearly missed work because of the conditions on the road, and Roger Chase has sat outside of his house with a radar gun in attempts to persuade drivers to slow down.
“It’s not uncommon for people to go past my house at 60 to 65 miles per hour, and it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night,” Chase said. “Something needs to be done with the road because it’s dangerous.”
Marshall County Engineer Paul Geilenfeldt said he wants to pave the road, but it is not currently in the county’s five-year plan. At a rate of 230 vehicles per day, he said, it is “right in the range” to be considered, and 250 is usually the number that all but guarantees paving.
According to Geilenfeldt, Tama County does not currently have plans to improve its portion of the road, but he would support it on Marshall County’s end if it could be packaged with two other potential paving projects — one on the road to Montour and another a mile south of Gilman. “Economically, it costs as much to keep this road in rock as it does in pavement,” Geilenfeldt said. “If we do it, we’ll save money on rock and maintenance.”
Marshall County Sheriff Joel Phillips addressed the board on the speeding issues and said he would send deputies out to the area for extra patrols. Ideally, he would like at least 30 days to gather hard data on speeding. No official action was taken as the agenda item was listed for discussion only.
During the public comment period of the meeting, Mark Eaton of Marshalltown asked the board about a recent report indicating Marshall County has 117 structurally deficient bridges. The problem, as Geilenfeldt put it in response, stems from the fact that Iowa simply has more bridges and gravel roads than most other states, and some of them go back as far as 120 years.
Earlier in the meeting, the board approved a revised 28E agreement with the Marshall County Communications Commission after what Supervisor Bill Patten characterized as a lengthy process of “bringing it up to date” and “working out misunderstandings” from the original agreement. The agreement went through six revisions, and the Communications Commission — which consists of the county’s mayors, Patten, Phillips, the Marion Township Trustee Chair and Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder — approved it by an 8-3 vote.
Marshall County Communications Manager Rhonda Braudis said she approved of the changes, which give her more latitude over hiring and firing within her department.
“I think moving forward, it’s a good direction, and I’m very happy with it,” Braudis said.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:
• Approved a resolution adopting a fee schedule for plats of survey, retracement plats and subdivision plats.
• Approved filing the receipt of a variance to allow a plat of survey in lieu of a subdivision plat for KH Land, LLC.
• Approved moving Austin Ewalt from Mechanic 3 to Mechanic 4 and raising his hourly pay rate from $27.68 to $28.01.
Contact Robert Maharry
at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or