Frustrated by DOT inaction at busy intersection, citizen warns of risk

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Motorists traveling northbound on Iowa Highway 144 and approaching the intersection of Willis Avenue receive very little help from roadway markings in understanding the center lane is a left-turn-only lane.

John Perdue of Perry told the Perry City Council Monday he was frustrated by the Iowa DOT’s inaction in the face of the risk to motorists’ safety at the busy intersection of Iowa Highway 144 and Willis Avenue.

In the two years since the rebuilding of the intersection of Willis and First avenues, the lane markings have worn away almost to nothing, particularly on the northbound lanes of Iowa Highway 144.

A Perry citizen brought this safety hazard to the attention of the Perry City Council Monday night after his questions to the Iowa Department of Transporation (DOT) proved fruitless.

“It’s just being ignored,” said John Perdue of Perry. “What concerns me is I’ve been coming occasionally southbound at the intersection, and there’ll be a car that’s in the left-turn lane, not going to turn, and there could be a head-on collision. The lines just aren’t there. They painted down by McDonald’s and Hy-Vee on 141, but they don’t come up, and it’s a state highway.”

Perdue said he brought the matter to the DOT’s attention in a July 26 letter, pointing out the northbound lanes of Iowa Highway 144 “near the intersection with Willis Avenue need painted as there have been several near accidents.”

Perdue told the DOT that Perry Public Works Director Jack Butler was “just being ignored. What does it take to get these lanes, especially the left-turn-only lane, painted so accidents can be avoided? I complained about this last summer, and at that time nothing was done.”

Perdue said he received a response July 31 from Rex Allen, district four traffic technician with the Iowa DOT. Allen said proposed changes in the Iowa Highway 144 lane alignment delayed repainting of the roadway markings.

“The Iowa DOT had been in discussion with the city of Perry last year regarding the possible conversion of the four-lane section of Iowa Highway 144 to a two-way left-turn lane or center-turn lane,” Allen said in his reply to Perdue. “At that time, the lane markings were in good shape, and we did not want to repaint the lines and arrows only to have to remove the markings if the lane alignment was changed.”

Allen said his office was aware of the safety concern but was not definite about when it would be addressed.

“As it happened,” he said, “the lane changes were not implemented, and it was hoped the lane markings would suffice through the winter. This office is again working with the city on this but plans to repaint the existings markings as they are wearing down. If and when the lane conversion happens, these lines will have to be removed or covered with a new surface. Thank you for your interest in traffic safety.”

Perdue said he was frustrated by the DOT’s inaction in the face of the risk to motorists’ safety at the busy intersection. He said he did not blame the city council for the risk.

“I don’t know what further can be done,” Perdue said, “but it just needs to be addressed because it wasn’t addressed last year. I know it’s not your fault, but I just wanted you to be aware of my correspondence with them and the response I got back.”

Several council members confirmed Perdue’s claims.

“There’s a lot of people that aren’t aware that that’s a turn-only lane,” said Perry City Council member Barb Wolling, “and they’re going straight through.”

“And you’re not going to see it on the street,” said Council member Chuck Schott. “If you’re a stranger in town, you’re not going to see it on the street because it’s too faint.”

Perdue said it was not the city’s responsibility to paint the roadways on the state highway, but the interest of public safety might make it necessary.

“It still doesn’t look like they’re doing anything,” he told the council. “When I first contacted Susie (Moorhead, city finance officer), she told me that if worse comes to worst, when the city took the time to paint the school markings and all that stuff, that the city would do this. Jack’s got enough to do. He does a terrific job, and it shouldn’t be the city that would have to paint those. Again, if you can do anything with the DOT because it shoudn’t be the city’s responsibility to do anything on a state highway.”

The council concurred and said further inquiries would be made with the DOT.

The southbound lanes of Iowa Highway 144 at Willis Avenue are worn but still faintly visible.
The intersection of Willis and First avenues in Perry was rebuilt, including freshly painted crosswalks, pedestrian-friendly stop lights and center turn lanes for motorists, in May 2016. The turn lanes have completely worn away in places since then.

4 COMMENTS

  1. To be sure, not having these lines repainted can create a confusing situation. What’s not confusing at all are the walkways and pedestrian crossing lights. I can personally testify some motorists have no apparent regard for either of them. Some hapless pedestrian is likely to get killed at this intersection while using the walk lights in good faith.

  2. The intersection of 144 and 141 also needs some attention. I would suggest another lane to widen 144 southbound to J Avenue, and extend it south past the turn into Hy Vee. Many southbound vehicles get in the southbound left turn lane and don’t turn. This intersection has a lot of traffic. It is poorly designed.

    • Seems as if the Department of Transportation has had its head up “you know where” when designing both intersections. I agree with you, Ray, on your idea for the intersection at 144 and 141. Left-turn lanes at First and Willis are completely unneeded.

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