Preliminary design concepts for Highway 75 improvements feature safety, functionality, and aesthetic elements to reflect Sioux Center’s character.
Sioux Center is partnering with the Iowa DOT to redesign Highway 75 as an enhanced 4-lane roadway. This features two lanes of travel in each direction with medians and a center turn lane. The project is in the preliminary design stage with construction planned in 2023-24.
“Highway 75 serves both as part of the US highway system and Sioux Center’s main street,” said Sioux Center Utilities Manager Murray Hulstein. “We want a corridor that will safely serve residents and visitors, include safe pedestrian use, and give travelers a sense of what Sioux Center is.”
Trent Bruce, of DGR Engineering, which is leading project design, shared ongoing work on the preliminary design with the Sioux Center City Council this week. Safety is a central focus. The proposed changes include requesting a stoplight at the 20th Street South intersection, near Pizza Hut, pending DOT approval. Sidewalks and highly visible pedestrian crossings are planned along the length of the project, which will stretch from 20th Street South to 12th Street North.
The design suggests raised medians throughout much of the corridor, which can serve to calm traffic by better defining travel lanes, having 11-foot traffic lanes (which calm traffic and decrease amount of right of way needed), limit places vehicles are crossing both directions of traffic, and give pedestrians a safe haven while crossing the road. In addition, medians are suggested to run through a few intersections, allowing only right-hand turns. This design decreases the number of potentially dangerous conflict points of left-turning traffic.
“When it comes to building safety into the design, at times it can come at the cost of convenience,” Bruce said. “Without a doubt there will be inconveniences, but the inconvenience of a small number is really outweighed by the safety of the larger number.”
Centered on Safety
Raised medians also offer an opportunity to showcase Sioux Center’s character for travelers, said Jon Jacobson, of Confluence, who is leading the streetscape planning for the redesign. He said a local feedback committee is asking to see pedestrian safe havens and other crossing features in as many locations as possible, as well as landscaping and other visual elements in medians.
“One of the things that we’re seeing coming out of the streetscape conversation is safety, safety, safety,” Jacobsen said. “It’s not just about aesthetics, but it’s also looking at how people beyond automobiles interact with the highway.”
Right of way planning
Bruce shared that the preliminary design suggests a change of about 10 or so feet on either side of the roadway, although this varies along the corridor depending on elevation and roadway needs. For some properties, this means the DOT will need to purchase additional right of way. For some, the DOT will decide that the impact is significant enough to offer to purchase the whole property, a process guided by state and federal rules.
“The DOT will lead those conversations. They are anticipating beginning those conversations next year, working directly with the impacted property owners,” Bruce said.
Right of way needs will impact the current Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Sioux Center. Its location would not allow for right turning trucks, which are essential at this intersection for Sioux Center’s agricultural/commercial economy. The building itself has mold and structural issues, and the Chamber Board has been actively working with a local developer on a new office location. Jacobson said staff and the local committee recognize the loss of this building downtown and will be considering how to use that corner as an opportunity to showcase streetscape elements and improve downtown parking to support businesses.
Creating a Sioux Center feel
Streetscape along the corridor will carry a theme and adapt to different segments of the community, Jacobson said. The commercial/industrial ends of Sioux Center may allow for wider medians with aesthetic elements and landscaping, wayfinding signs, and trees planted along the roadway. Sioux Center’s downtown offers opportunities for streetscape elements along the sidewalks and pedestrian-scale lighting as well as sidewalk bump-outs and increased visibility in pedestrian crossings to improve walkability. In residential areas, the streetscape committee is looking at medians and plantings, especially in ways to help create a natural buffer in areas along the roadway.
“The corridor sections may be different, but there are elements that drift in and out of them that, in the end, tie the entire corridor together,” Jacobson said. “It begins to brand the community, and people recognize it as they move through town.”
City staff are planning for a public opportunity to view and discuss streetscape and design concepts. The Oct. 29 open house will be come-and-go and allow for social distancing. Masks are recommended. English/Spanish interpretation will be available.