The city of Fort Dodge is developing an implementation plan to realign Iowa Highway 926 (Second Avenue South) to First Avenue South within the downtown area. This is the final step before design and construction activities begin on the realignment project. This plan is necessary to properly address the impacts associated with the improvements and to gather public input on the project. In 2008, the Downtown Study was completed and this project was identified as an important project for the city to consider completing to accomplish numerous goals. One of those goals is to help "right size" the downtown area and address the ongoing issue of vacant buildings and unused space.
The city established a Steering Committee made up of elected officials, city staff, Iowa Department of Transportation staff, economic development interest groups and the consultant Snyder & Associates. This committee developed the project together and provided for numerous opportunities for the public to provide input. Two public meetings have been held, numerous shorter public review and comment periods have been provided at City Hall and presentations have been made to the Fort Dodge Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary and SSMID board.
The primary purpose for this project is to safely and efficiently accommodate existing and projected traffic from Karl King Bridge over the Des Moines River east to South 32nd Street. This is driven by the need for a continuous roadway between the downtown area and the east side of Fort Dodge, to improve local access to and within the downtown area and to support the city's goal of "right sizing" the downtown business district.
An important component to this plan was to identify different locations that the realignment could be completed and test those realignment locations against the purpose and need for the project. Multiple concepts were developed for the crossover that range from realigning the roadway between South Fourth and Sixth Streets to realigning the roadway near South 12th Street. Each of the concepts was analyzed to identify impacts associated with land needs, potential utility relocations, traffic redistribution, pedestrian movements and opportunities for redevelopment adjacent to the new roadway. The preferred realignment corridor is shown in the picture at right and was determined when each of the concepts was tested against the purpose and need as well as the impacts associated with each.
Individual intersections were also reviewed with the future traffic projections. Those intersections along First Avenue South included South 12th Street, South 15th Street, South 25th Street and South 29th Street. Additional lanes at each intersection were looked at as well as potential reconstruction of each as a roundabout. Those intersections were also reviewed for impacts to assist the city in deciding a preferred alternative for improvements at each.
The traffic analysis for the implementation plan included a review of the downtown signal system as well as converting First Avenue North and First Avenue South to two-way traffic corridors in the downtown area. A goal associated with the downtown signal system analysis was to identify intersections within the existing street grid that currently have a traffic signal, but may not need one. The city has identified the downtown traffic signal system as one that frequently requires attention due to its age. If the possibility of eliminating signals in the downtown area exists, the city is interested in doing so with the idea of reducing costs associated with replacing those older existing traffic signals and maintaining them in the future.
An approach to provide improved access to and within the downtown area would be to convert First Avenue North and First Avenue South to allow traffic to travel both westbound and eastbound throughout the entire downtown area. Currently, First Avenue South allows traffic to flow westbound between South Third Street and South 12th Street. First Avenue North allows traffic to flow eastbound only between North Seventh Street and North 12th Street. Access to the entire downtown area will be greatly improved by converting those two roadways in their entirety to two-way traffic corridors.
As mentioned above, redevelopment opportunities were identified for each of the realignment concepts. Redevelopment concepts are currently being prepared for the preferred realignment concept and will be included in the implementation plan report. There is to be one final Steering Committee meeting in July as well as a meeting with the SSMID board. Upon meeting with those two groups, the report will be finalized and presented to the City Council for review and, hopefully, approval.
The city is still seeking input for this project. If you have questions or comments, please contact Chad Schaeffer with the city of Fort Dodge at 576-3601.
Chad Schaeffer is the Fort Dodge city engineer.