By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
The U.S. Highway 63 Steering Committee approved a study by Snyder & Associates Tuesday that recommends that Highway 63 corridor improvements follow the existing highway corridor.
Snyder & Associates officials met with the steering committee to present their Corridor Location Study for approval before it is submitted to the Iowa Department of Transportation in July.
Dale Harrington of Snyder and Associates said the highway needs to be upgraded in order to meet transportation needs from now through 2040 from Oskaloosa to U.S. Highway 6 near Malcom. The current Highway 63 was designed 80 years ago, he said.
Harrington outlined some of the safety problems with the current highway such as a higher crash rate than the state average, inadequate passing zones and the roadway does not meet current primary road design standards.
The fact that the Highway 63 corridor has been added to the state's Commercial Industrial Network is "quite an accomplishment." This gives the highway priority for improvements.
"You've made an impact already," he said.
Also, the fact that the CIN is part of the National Highway System will help with obtaining federal funds for improvements, Harrington said.
Richard Voelker of Snyder & Associates then discussed route options for Phase 2 of the study. Phase 2 looks at things such as the location of wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas, and architectural and historic sites for preservation and research available right-of-ways for construction. The information will be used to develop the NEPA study.
Voelker said there were two alignments under consideration: East and West. The East Alignment follows the current Highway 63 route north of Oskaloosa to Malcolm. A West Alignment would follow Highway 146 north of New Sharon and follow Highway T58 through Poweshiek County.
Priorities for the Highway 63 improvements include an Oskaloosa bypass on the northwest side of the city, a U.S. 63 bypass of Montezuma as well as improvements to the roadway from Montezuma to Interstate 80 and a New Sharon bypass, Voelker said.
Brenna Fall of Snyder & Associates reviewed the scoring criteria used in developing the East and West alignments.
The Snyder & Associates recommendation was to approve the East Alignment for improvements and have the West Alignment as a backup.
During discussion of the scoring criteria, steering committee members decided to put more emphasis on the route following the current Highway 63 roadway and less on construction cost.
The steering committee also wanted to add a connector road from Pella to the proposed Highway 63 East Alignment as a related priority.
The steering committee approved the Snyder & Associates study with the changes included.
Snyder & Associates will submit the study to the IDOT and the steering committee members will work with DOT staff on the improvement project. They will attend a DOT Commission meeting in August to discuss U.S. 63 Corridor improvements.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org