Our concern about the proposed Highway 63 bypass involves more than just our land being carved up for this project; it also involves the wisdom of routing traffic west of Oskaloosa instead of east of Oskaloosa.
First of all, our specific situation involves some of the best farmland in Mahaska County, having a consistent CSR2 (corn sustainability rating) in the high 80s and low 90s. This project will not only take this very good land out of production, but will slice up the remaining land into parcels that will be more difficult to farm. While we have no plans to sell the land, we cannot speak for generations beyond ourselves, and have concerns that the value of the remaining land will be compromised as it will be smaller parcels that will not farm very easily.
More importantly, for both safety and efficiency, we do understand the benefits of having heavy truck traffic, as well as normal traffic, be rerouted around Oskaloosa to avoid the more congested downtown and road arteries to the downtown. However, we cannot understand the reasoning for going west of Oskaloosa, which already has four-lane access, instead of east of Oskaloosa, which has no four-lane access. We realize that the distance around Oskaloosa on the west is shorter than on the east.
However, it is also very obvious that you would be able to use an eastern Highway 63 bypass to pick up the traffic on two highways: Highway 92 and Highway 23. Additionally, the east side of Oskaloosa contains the Industrial Park and the very large DFS grain handling facility — these both utilize heavy truck traffic, particularly the latter. This proposed bypass will do nothing to improve that situation, with all these trucks coming from the north, south and west to those locations being forced to go through town if the bypass is built as presented.
We believe that a bypass around the east side of Oskaloosa would do far more good than one on the west side. And we are not the only ones. We would predict that if you did a poll of Mahaska County and Oskaloosa residents, easily 90 percent of them would state that an eastern bypass makes much more sense than a western one. Since this road improvement is permanent and for decades and decades to come, why not go through the effort to "do it right" and capture all the benefits that will be realized by the business and industry on the east side of Oskaloosa, as well as pick up the truck traffic coming on Highways 92 and 23 from the east that will never be able to use this western bypass?
We fully know and understand that this will be more costly; but the benefit will be much better as well. It would therefore make much more sense to go to the eastern route even if it takes more time and more years to do the project and accumulate the appropriate funding.
As stated earlier, we truly believe that an eastern bypass is preferred by most residents as it is the most logical for the long-term. While we know that the proposed airport on the west side of Oskaloosa is not an "official" part of this discussion, the cynical side of us makes us wonder if the backers of the proposed airport are influencing this project in some way, shape, or form. That would certainly be sad if that were the case, as the present logic and common sense all point toward an eastern bypass. We would certainly expect that the DOT's long-term planning decisions are based on the relevant facts as they exist today, not on the speculative plans of an airport that may not ever be constructed.
In summary, we are opposed to the project as presented and request that you provide the following: A summary of any work or investigation that would go on the east side of Oskaloosa, including a cost proposal if you have gone that far. If you have done that work and investigation, an explanation why you chose the west side of Oskaloosa instead of the east side. If you have not done that work and investigation, an explanation as to why that has not been done yet and why it shouldn't be done so that both east and west bypass proposals could be compared and debated.
John W. DeRooi,