This came in your mail today, if you are a Sioux Center resident and a voter. Here’s a PDF version if you need to print some extras.
“You are going to see more crashes, and more severe crashes. Bottom line? You’re going to see more blood on the pavement if you convert Highway 75 to a five-lane roadway.” – Thomas M. Welch
Former Director, Office of Transportation Safety, Engineering Division, Iowa Department of Transportation
Dear Sioux Center resident,
Did you know that Sioux Center might become the first city in the Nation to reverse a nationally praised highway project that resulted in substantially greater public safety? Thomas Welch, who helped architect Sioux Center’s transition from four lanes to three and consults internationally on safety issues since retiring from the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) in 2010, would not recommend the five-lane widening for Sioux Center.
“I can’t imagine any other city doing what Sioux Center is proposing to do considering the shortage of funds out there for highway improvements,” Welch said when told by Sioux Center Citizens for Responsible Growth about the proposed expansion. “To widen a roadway like that, which can handle up to 18,000 cars per day, when it’s barely at 12,000 cars per day, does not make sense, especially when it creates a greater chance for death and injury. Boy they’re going to be mad at me, but I have to tell the truth. Sioux Center has a lot of elderly people. There will be blood on the pavement.”
Sioux Center received a state safety award in 2000 for its lane reduction; the reports Welch authored received National attention, with Sioux Center quickly becoming a model for other cities and towns looking to reduce accidents and fatalities on four-lane roadways. Welch was later awarded the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Presidents Award of Merit in 2004, the only State Safety Engineer to have ever received this award.
Welch states it’s very difficult to forecast 5 year future traffic volumes let alone 20 year predictions of traffic volumes. To illustrate this: A 1998 report the city used as a basis for lobbying the DOT for expansion money predicted 16,000 vehicles per day by 2007; contrary to the prediction, traffic today is only 12,000 cars per day.
“I would not build that five-lane roadway. But I’m biased: I’m in favor of taking business away from funeral homes and trauma centers,” Welch said.
A year after completion of the 3-lane design, Welch managed to beat the state average, solidifying a dramatic reduction in fatalities with overall collisions down 57%; in fact, fatalities dropped to zero. Sioux Center Citizens for Responsible Growth wonders, does Highway 75 have a congestion problem or a patience problem? Welch states:
“After we did this the city manager told me, ‘We hate this thing two hours a day, but we love it 22 hours a day.’ So for two hours a day, Sioux Center has a level of congestion that people in a small town do not find acceptable. We worked on a 3-lane in Seattle that stayed at the capacity limit, around 18,000 cars per day. Sioux Center is down below 12,000 cars a day.”
Sioux Center Citizens for Responsible Growth is astounded that our council would continue to pursue an expansion. It is projected to cost $6.7 million, almost $3 million of which will be funded by Sioux Center taxpayers, to save seconds of commute time. An expansion, aside from passing debt to future generations of Sioux Center residents, could literally be an issue of life and death. Welch warns,
“You will sacrifice safety if you add capacity. The aggressive drivers are going to be back, weaving in and out. It will be that much harder for an older person or younger driver to judge well regarding how far away each car is and how fast they’re coming. There will be more speeding, and there will be more accidents.”
To learn more, please see our website at www.siouxcentercrg.com.
Come to the public information meeting at the
Terrace View Events Center
Wednesday, March 27, at 5:30 p.m.
What can you do RIGHT NOW to ensure this highway expansion doesn’t take place?
Please sign the included letter, which is addressed to the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission, and mail it back to us using the included self-addressed envelope…
where we will hand deliver them to the commission on April 9, 2013.
Rachel Hoogeveen, Chairwoman
Sioux Center Citizens for Responsible Growth
Dear DOT Commissioners,
I am writing to tell you that Sioux Center citizens do not want a five-lane expansion through the middle of our Main Street and downtown commercial district. We simply do not need it based on the road’s capacity (18,000 vehicles per day) and its current load (around 11,000 to 12,000 per day, with slight decreases in each of the last three years).
The cost and the safety trade-offs of expanding the roadway are too high. There are many homes, beautiful old trees, and elderly drivers and pedestrians in the area. There are stores and coffee shops. Our Main Street is not a freeway. Children and the elderly should be able to cross the street without fearing for their lives.
Please vote NO on approving a five-lane expansion to Highway 75. It is not in the best interest of the majority of citizens in Sioux Center.
Please do NOT dismantle Sioux Center’s nationally acclaimed, three-lane congestion reduction, safety-first design. It was a good solution in 1999 when the city partnered with the DOT and had outstanding safety results, and it’s still a good design today, with plenty of room for growth.
Our community does not want to see blood on the pavement, and we do not want crashes and fatalities to return to Highway 75’s four-lane levels. Please vote no.