FLOYD — A public meeting will be held Tuesday to discuss whether safety improvements are needed at the site of a fatal crash in Floyd.
T.J. Houdek, 23, of Charles City, was killed on the Avenue of the Saints when the motorcycle he was riding was hit by a semi at the junction of Quarry Road and U.S. 218 on July 18.
State troopers say he pulled in front of the big rig, whose driver also was injured.
In the wake of Houdek’s death, state Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm, D-Cresco, and state Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, called Tuesday’s meeting to hear what the community thinks should be done about the intersection, which some local officials have considered hazardous for years.
The meeting will be at 5 p.m. at the Floyd Community Center, 706 Fairfield St.
Wilhelm, who says she frequently drives through the intersection, says many worry the conditions could become worse due to the construction of a Love’s truck stop on the north side of the road.
“The people that use that intersection a lot think that there’s poor visibility because of all the cross traffic,” she said. “And now with the potential increase of usage with Love’s, I think that’s a big concern, too.”
Some think an overpass with on-ramps and off-ramps may be the answer.
An online petition calling for the Iowa Department of Transportation to build an overpass at the intersection has garnered more than 2,800 signatures since July 18.
Because the site involves state roads, any changes would be approved and executed by the Iowa DOT.
Although the DOT has not approved an interchange, state transportation officials have taken the first steps to make that a reality in case officials determine one is needed, said Pete Hjelmstad, DOT field services coordinator.
It has explored several design alternatives and last month completed a required environmental impact study.
It began the study due to the traffic volume, including the amount of trucks, Hjelmstad said.
“We don’t have any decisions on it now,” he said. “It’s something we looked at and, if that is something we needed, we wanted to be ready. That’s why we did this study and that’s why we’re moving through the process.”
The next step is for the agency to present a preferred design alternative at a public meeting. That is tentatively slated for Nov. 9.
If an interchange is approved, it would take another three years for construction to start, Hjelmstad said.
The current cost is pegged at approximately $18 million.
Floyd County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Crooks hopes an interchange is built, saying the site remains a problem in spite of changes the Iowa DOT made several years ago to increase safety.
It’s better than it used to be, but cars and semitrailers in the middle still block traffic and people still seem to get confused once they get into the middle of the divided highway, he said.
Sheriff’s Office data shows 35 crashes have been reported at the intersection since June 1, 2011. Sixteen of those were injury accidents, including last week's fatality.
“We just cringe every time that a call comes out to (that intersection) because you just fear the worst when you’re there, because we know what kind of mess that intersection is to start with and the amount of traffic that’s there,” said Crooks, who plans to attend Tuesday’s meeting. “And the speeds that are involved — normally it’s a car that isn’t moving very fast versus a car that is moving very fast.”