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Busy Corridor Requires Realignment to Improve Safety and Repair Deficiencies

For mid-sized communities across the country, maintaining and improving critical infrastructure is just one piece in a complex puzzle. When it comes to attracting and supporting new business and retaining talented individuals, having comfortable roadways, attractive and inviting spaces, and a well-managed community are essential criteria for success. For the City of Fort Dodge, recent roadway safety upgrades around the 1st Avenue South and 15th Street corridor are just one example of the types of improvements that create meaningful progress.

With the completion of the Cross-Town Connector project in 2017, 1st Avenue South was realigned to become the primary conduit for east/west traffic through town, while 15th Street carries traffic coming into town from the north. Unfortunately, these notoriously problematic stretches of roadway accounted for seven of the 10 worst intersections in terms of crashes. Design improvements offered by Snyder & Associates aimed to change these statistics and create a better traveling experience.

Comprehensive Roadway Repairs and Safety Improvements

While the project scope emphasized safety, some roadway sections also required extensive repair work. In the case of several intersections, complete pavement replacement work was necessary. This included a thorough evaluation of the pedestrian curb ramps throughout the project corridor. Many of these ramps were in poor condition or did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and had to be reconstructed.

Crews put down the HMA overlay along 16th Street.

Several intersections saw increased safety measures implemented with the addition of right-turn lanes at all intersection approaches. Other sections of roadway in the project area were rehabilitated with full-depth patching, milling, and a Hot-Mix Asphalt (HMA) overlay. New sanitary sewer and water main were included in several areas, including the area around the Fort Dodge Fire Station that sits between Central Avenue and 1st Avenue South.

Still, other improvements were accomplished without replacing pavement. Several trouble intersections were made safer by adding a center, two-way left-turn lane. This process is commonly referred to as a “road diet.” This style of lane alignment is designed to calm traffic, reduce crashes, and provide additional space between vehicles and pedestrians without performing any roadway widening. In these areas where center, two-way left-turn lanes were added, on-street parking was eliminated. But as a bonus, several roadways benefited by gaining bicycle lanes with the remaining pavement width from the realignments.

In addition to the left-turn lanes, new traffic signals were slated to be installed at the Central Avenue and 15th Street intersection and one block away at 15th Street and 1st Avenue South. These were necessary to accommodate the lane realignments.

Traffic Staging & Right-Of-Way Challenges

The design team faced several challenges implementing the changes for this project — foremost was the presence of the Fort Dodge Fire Department located between Central Avenue and 1st Avenue South. Since the emergency vehicles exit the station onto 15th Street, the department needed street access throughout the project.

Some sections of the roadway only required scattered repairs.

A thorough staging schedule was designed to make this happen. John Haldeman of Snyder & Associates made it clear that “…emergency vehicles will have the option of leaving the station through the Central Avenue and 15th Street intersection or the 1st Avenue South and 15th Street intersection because one of those intersections will remain open throughout the project.”

Our team also worked closely with residents and business owners in the project area to ensure everyone’s needs were met. Numerous business entrances had to be moved or reconfigured to work with the roadway improvements. Snyder & Associates handled the public coordination efforts, as well as assisting city staff with sensitive right-of-way issues.

Financial Planning Assistance

The City of Fort Dodge received two state grants to help pay for the bulk of the roadway improvement work. Snyder & Associates assisted with grant application efforts which consisted of two separate Traffic Safety Improvement Program (TSIP) grants from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). These funds are available for traffic safety improvements on any public roads under city, county, or state jurisdiction. A $500,000 grant was awarded for the work at 1st Avenue South and 15th Street, while a $370,000 grant was awarded for the work at Central Avenue and 15th Street.

This extensive project took most of the 2019 construction seasons to complete. The thoughtful staging plan limited disruptions to local traffic, homeowners, and business owners in the area, while the new storm sewer drainage system reduces the potential for localized flooding events along the corridor. The increased safety measures, along with a more comfortable experience for drivers, has created a major quality of life enhancement for the city and its residents.