By Alex Foltz
The Muscatine City Council held a special session on Thursday, March 22 to discuss the ongoing Mississippi Drive project. Various councilmembers and the mayor brought forth concerns that they had heard from citizens, as well as concerns they had themselves. Three citizens also came forward to voice their concerns. Jim Harbaugh of Bolton & Menk and Joe Spradling of HDR were present to address the concerns of the council and citizens.
Harbaugh explained to the council and audience the project’s goals, which include modernizing Mississippi Drive based on the role it serves and implementing a community-supported and technically sound project via extensive public input, among other goals.
Spradling explained the three EMS procedures that will be in place regarding the mountable curb that will be present on Mississippi Dr. Spradling also gave multiple examples of this style of roadway, with one being a case study done in New York which showed fewer accidents, lower speeds, and marginally higher drive times.
“It makes it safer for everyone. It makes it safer for pedestrians, it makes safer for bicyclists and also the travelling public,” Spradling said.
Mayor Diana Broderson and Councilman Osmond Malcolm stated that citizens had asked them why back-in parking was necessary, rather than having parallel parking or pull-in spaces. Harbaugh explained that having vehicles back in is safer than having them back into traffic or having citizens be near the road to load items into the back of their vehicle. The back-in spaces also provide more parking spaces than parallel parking.
“I would encourage people to absolutely exercise more patience, not just with the backing in parking… but just in general driving around town. I think that our driving habits have gotten such that little changes like this become big issues and if we can show a little more patience with each other, it’ll go a long way,” Councilman Kelcey Brackett said.
Councilwoman Nadine Brockert brought forth concerns she had heard at her board meeting over the amount of distance some drivers would need to travel in order to turn around after parking at Contrary Brewing. Harbaugh stated that his company had researched the extra drive time required with the current plans and found that turning around beyond the median at Broadway would add approximately 30 seconds.
Councilpersons Allen Harvey, Brackett, and Malcolm expressed concern over extra-long vehicles. Harvey asked if an extended turning lane would be possible at Sycamore to allow multiple long vehicles to turn. Harbaugh said it would be possible, but the transmission lines would have to be removed first, which is one of the final things in the project.
Brackett and Malcolm expressed concern over the turning abilities of tractor-trailers and what would happen if one broke down. Harbaugh explained that alternate routes are available if the latter occurs, while the mountable curb will allow for trucks to make the turns. However there is space for experienced drivers to turn without having to use the curb.
One citizen was concerned about the safety of the emergency responders with this new roadway. Fire Chief Jerry Ewers and Police Chief Brett Talkington stated that their departments are prepared for the changes and that they will adapt.
“Whatever the emergency is in town, our drivers will get there safely,” Ewers said.
A business owner stated that his customers are not happy with the new roadway, for some of the reasons stated above. Another issue was the lack of handicap parking at his location. Harbaugh said that the handicap parking spaces were distributed evenly, but that more could be added in the future if needed. Currently the allotted spaces are above the minimum required by the ADA.
The third citizen inquired as to the roundabout plans. These plans were pulled from the project and will be separate. They are still in the planning stages.
The complete project plan is available on the City website.