Town may change major intersection for Kwik Star

WEBSTER CITY — The City Council of Webster City on Monday reached a consensus on which engineering option it will be using for the Superior Street and Fairmeadow Drive intersection.

It chose an option that must be revised in the future because the council could not reach a consensus about whether or not to remove existing medians.

The Fairmeadow Drive intersection with Superior Street is one of the busiest intersections in Webster City.

The need to restructure the medians results from the approval of Kwik Star’s rezoning request in January. Part of that agreement entailed improving the intersection to allow for the additional traffic expected at the intersection.

The council has agreed to share the improvement costs with Kwik Star.

That cost is expected to total $613,900.

Kwik Star would be responsible for $412,800.

The city would be responsible for $201,100.

“Most of the feedback I’ve had is people wanted the islands gone,” said Councilman Jim Talbot.

Councilman Logan Welch agreed, citing residents he spoke with who were in favor of their removal.

“Some of these options are designed by expert road designers and I understand that,” Welch said. “However, I feel that the diversion of traffic can be done with painted lines just as well and merge signs.”

Three conceptual plans were originally presented by Snyder & Associates Inc.

All three plans incorporated improving the intersection by reconfiguring the southwest, northwest and northeast corners of the intersection and tapering the center median on Superior Street north of the intersection with Fairmeadow. This would allow a wider turning radius for trucks and other large vehicles, according to information provided to the council.

“I think one of the issues that everyone has had is from the south — that inside lane just ends and you have to merge,” said Councilman Matt McKinney. “That’s been a problem and that goes away with the new design. So we’re getting rid of one of the pieces people have a problem with.”

The city’s insurance carrier has indicated that removing the medians altogether may increase the city’s exposure if an accident should occur. The medians also serve as a traffic calming measure to help reduce the likelihood of collisions of vehicles travelling in opposing lanes.

Webster City Public Works Director Ken Wetzler said he had met with an official from the Iowa Department of Transportation regarding the intersection.

“He said that at the time this intersection was designed all those approvals had to be done through the DOT and at that time, the medians were required,” Wetzler told the council. “The other thing that I will say — and to me, if we take the medians out, we take them out — but I will say this: If you are northbound and someone doesn’t have that left turn lane and you can’t see where the painted lines are at if there’s snow piled up, it’s going to look like you’re driving right into oncoming southbound traffic.”

McKinney said, “I think it’s important, from my perspective, to note that was a requirement when the DOT did the project originally. That was a safety factor.”

Webster City Fire Chief Chuck Stansfield talked about major accidents that have occurred at the intersection in the last year. He said that without the medians more traumatic, head-on collisions may have occurred.

“From a public safety standpoint, any median is better than none on a two lane highway,” he said. “If that was a DOT recommendation — pretty much any governmental agency that deals with safety issues — most of the time why they have a recommendation or a guideline has to do with a death behind it. I think for us to go against that, we have to really consider that from a public safety standpoint.”