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‘It is a safety hazard’

Retired fire chief wants Hwy 175 curves removed

GOWRIE — Curves along an otherwise straight stretch of road between Harcourt and Gowrie have caused numerous single-vehicle crashes throughout the course of Greg Benson’s career as a firefighter. And that’s why he’s advocating that they be removed.

“We’ve been to a lot of wrecks over there with our Jaws of Life,” said Benson, a retired Gowrie fire chief who was a volunteer firefighter for 47 years. “There’s been one fatality that I know of.”

The curves are located along Iowa Highway 175 near Kansas Avenue. The bend in the road was to accommodate a railroad crossing there. But Benson said that crossing hasn’t been there in over 40 years.

“There’s really no reason for that curve,” Benson said. “It’s a flat road all the way from Lake City and people get to thinking it’s a flat, straight road.”

According to Benson, a vast majority of crashes have involved just one vehicle.

“The other thing is these are all single-vehicle crashes,” he said. “That means they are running off the road for this reason or that reason. I don’t remember two cars being involved in any of the ones I was at.”

According to Tony Gustafson, district 1 engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation, from 2011 to 2020, six crashes were recorded along those curves.

At this point, there are no immediate plans to remove the bends in the road. But Gustafson said within the next month chevron signs are to be installed to alert traffic to the curves.

In 2019 rumble strips were installed on the center line.

“Those are low cost, super effective safety strategies we have used over the state and that are used all over the country,” Gustafson said.

He said shoulder rumble strips could also be installed at some point.

“That’s another mitigation strategy that could be done after the project to the west,” Gustafson said.

The speed limit is 55 mph on the highway.

Benson said the curves discussion came about because a repaving project is in the works along Iowa Highway 175. But that project doesn’t include the curved part of the highway.

Plans are in place to repave the highway from Gowrie to Lohrville.

Gustafson said the DOT investigated the curves 10 years ago.

“We looked at it 10 years ago because we didn’t understand why there was a curve in there,” Gustafson said. “In whatever time between 1960s and ’70s, the railroad abandoned the line and it went away.”

Benson said it would be a good time to remove the curves while repaving was not going on.

The DOT uses a formula to determine its projects. It takes into account number of crashes and project cost.

“The roadway seems to be operating OK based on our data but doesn’t mean we can’t revisit it,” Gustafson said.

A conservative estimate to remove the curves is about $1 million, according to Gustafson. The stretch of road that would need reconfigured is a little over a half of a mile.

“There’s no reason for it to be there and it is a safety hazard,” Benson said.

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