Farm-to-market roads

Supervisors Mark Groenendyk, Steve Wanders and Steve Parker listen as county engineer Andy McGuire discusses how farm-to-market roads designations can be changed.

MAHASKA COUNTY — Mahaska County Engineer Andy McGuire spoke with the county supervisors about the county’s farm-to-market roads and what it takes to make changes to that system.

Following receipt of a letter from the cities of Oskaloosa and Pella regarding 220th Street, which is a farm to market road; and its status in plans for the proposed South Central Regional Airport, the supervisors called in McGuire to lead a discussion.

The topic regarding whether an additional engineer would be needed concerning 220th Street was tabled.

McGuire shared some history of the farm-to-market road system.

“Back in the late 1800s, as Iowa continued to improve their roads, there was a push to establish a system where those that use the road system wouldn’t have to travel a great distance to find a road with a higher functional classification, or a better road if you will,” he said. “And the idea at that time was to establish a three by three-mile grid system to where the furthest distance that one would have to travel to find one of these higher type service roads would be a mile and a half.”

The three by three-mile grid system was not practical, McGuire said, due to the geography of the land.

County roads allow access to the farm-to-market funding system, McGuire said.

“And with time, what happens is industry changes,” he said. “A grain elevator establishes itself, or an industry establishes itself and creates a need for some of that funding to be directed specifically toward a certain road.”

McGuire said he had spoken with Mahaska County Board of Supervisors Chair Mark Groenendyk about 220th Street.

“In reviewing this and going over some of the conversations that have gone on previously,” he said, “I would need some more information before I would be agreeable and make a recommendation to you guys that you would need to bring somebody else on to review this as well.”

The process to amend the farm-to-market review system is not very complicated, McGuire said, and county engineers, including himself, are familiar with the process.

“Now, the specifics on anything that changes on the road system is something that I would review as well,” McGuire said, “and that might warrant some further conversation.”

235th Street has been suggested as a possible farm-to-market road. That could be possible, McGuire said, with some upgrades to that road for safety considerations.

“The letter that I read from the city included removing the west mile, approximately, of 220th and reclassifying Independence,” he said. “So from a mileage standpoint, that would be kind of a wash from a length standpoint. If you add 235th on to whatever the destination point would be, you’d be adding mileage at that point and you would most likely need to find another county in order to take some off of the farm-to-market system to balance the mileage out. So that would be one consideration for you and where those funds can be directed.”

Safety is of major concern, McGuire said, specifically when it comes to large, slow-moving vehicles utilizing Hwy. 163.

“The letter does a good job of pointing out that there are areas in the county where there is some of this connectivity from farm-to-market utilizing that four-lane highway,” he said. “While that’s true, I would not say that that is a desirable situation, one that we would want to promote, if you will, or encourage. So I would absolutely try and find an alternate solution for that route. And 235th might be one of those areas.”

Groenendyk mentioned the county is facing a new lawsuit from the airport Site A Landowners, in addition to suits from the cities of Oskaloosa and Pella.

McGuire suggested getting more information before any decisions are made.

“The last thing we want to do, in my opinion, would be to change the system based on the traffic counts that I look at on those roads, to redirect traffic or try and rearrange the system and the system doesn’t line up with what the traffic is actually doing,” he said. “You want to be able to have the funding in place to handle high traffic loads in order to make improvements or to make maintenance operations on that system, so I would be hesitant to do that.”

Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.

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