The latest proposal to alleviate road congestion and safety concerns near Dubuque County’s largest employer includes the installation of two roundabouts and a turning lane.
It also comes with a significantly reduced price tag than an earlier proposal.
Foth Infrastructure and Environment unveiled the latest proposal this week to the Dubuque County supervisors, who approved the concept.
It includes adding two roundabouts, a southbound turning lane on South John Deere Road between West John Deere and Peru roads, and a walking trail with pedestrian crossings on both South John Deere Road and U.S. 52.
“Our goals here are to reduce accidents, reduce travel delays and boost freight mobility,” said Aaron Moniza, senior client manager for Foth.
The project is expected to cost $6.8 million — with $5.4 million covered by a federal Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development grant the county secured in 2019.
The county qualified for the grant following a 2018 traffic study of intersections around John Deere Dubuque Works that aimed to analyze employees’ traffic patterns. It found that 3,000 people came in and out of the plant daily, including about 270 semi-tractor trailers, and that the nearby roads are frequently used by other motorists as well.
The current proposal calls for the roundabouts to be installed on South John Deere Road, one at the southern parking entrance and one at the intersection with Peru Road.
“There will be new lighting at each of the roundabouts, and in the middle of the roundabouts, we will have some (wildflower) plantings,” Moniza said.
The project also includes a new concrete walking trail that, in part, would run along West John Deere from the plant to U.S. 52.
The latest design differs significantly from a 2019 proposal shared when the county received the federal grant.
That plan included the addition of a four-way intersection with traffic signals at the plant’s southern parking entrance.
It also included several project elements such as improving the intersection of U.S. 52 and West John Deere Road, complete with traffic signals, and major repairs to the Northwest Arterial itself.
The new proposal’s $6.8 million price tag is lower than the $10.5 million originally projected because the county, City of Dubuque and Iowa Department of Transportation are in the process of “decoupling” the John Deere Road corridor projects from others on the Northwest Arterial.
“We’ve all realized that it’s going to be easier to administer this separately,” County Engineer Anthony Bardgett said.
That the proposed new trail along West John Deere eventually would cross U.S. 52 at-grade constituted one of the only areas of concern for county supervisors.
“I was in law enforcement for years and know how they drive out there,” said County Supervisor Harley Pothoff, a retired road patrol captain with the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department.
Supervisors Ann McDonough and Jay Wickham both also shared some concerns about the trail as proposed but said that piece could always come back to the board later.
On South John Deere Road, northbound traffic will be slowed significantly by the roundabouts before reaching the trail’s crossing, Moniza said.
“As traffic enters this area, it’s going to keep traffic going but will reduce the overall speed of people coming through here because of the roundabouts, where people will be in the 18-to-20-miles-per-hour range,” he said.
Construction on the project is now expected to begin in the spring of 2022 and last until the spring or summer of 2023. The plan is for work to disrupt traffic as little as possible.
“When we start construction in the spring, we’ll start work at either end of the project, with some temporary pavement,” Moniza said. “Then, we are going to shut down between Peru and West John Deere Road. (John Deere), then, are just going to have all of their employees exit to Peru Road and Herber Road during that time.”
Steve Mai, facility engineering supervisor at John Deere Dubuque Works, said officials are excited about the project, both in concept and in design. Officials were consulted throughout the recent design period.
“The roundabouts and the whole design will address a lot of the major concerns we have with the intersections,” he said. “The trail system will be of great benefit to a lot of users.”