Citizens express safety concern for Iowa City construction

Despite increased concerns and complaints about city construction, engineers assure that the end results will be worth delays.


Shivansh Ahuja

Construction is underway at the intersection of Myrtle Ave. and S. Riverside Dr. as seen on Sunday, November 11, 2018. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

With the installation of traffic lights, the expansion of streets, and other additions, there has been a great deal of construction throughout Iowa City. As changes continue, many people have expressed concern about safety and efficiency.

UI law student Agnieszka Gaertner regularly uses a route along Myrtle Avenue and South Riverside Drive to get to her classes, which, she said, is the fastest option but not always the safest.

“When you have to go below the bridge, this is the part where there’s no path walk,” Gaertner said. “It’s very narrow, and cars pass by really, really close — inches away.”

The construction itself is not her obstacle, she said, but rather the pathway alongside it. Among other safety concerns, she said, the pathway is filled with small rocks that make it easy to slip, particularly after or during rain.

“Right now, it’s really dangerous,” Gaertner said. “And I think this is something they could easily and with low-cost clean up.”

Gaertner said her other option would be to backtrack when leaving her apartment, cross the street, and taking the next bridge, which may be safer but would extend her trip to classes by nearly 10 minutes.

City engineer Jason Havel said the construction at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Riverside Drive has very little effect on the pathway people feel unsafe crossing.

“That is an issue that’s been there long before this project,” he said. “We always try to take it into consideration, that people have lives outside of construction, and we need to accommodate their ability to get through the area.” 

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Havel said the construction in that area began this fall and will wrap up soon for the winter, with a likely couple months of work left in the spring. Goals include improving the intersection at Riverside Drive, with additional traffic signals, crosswalks, and turn lanes.

“With all these projects, there are certain requirements we have to meet,” Havel said. “I certainly understand [the] frustration of pedestrians, but once these improvements are done, I think it’s going to be a lot better situation.”

He said that with the increased construction throughout the city this year, many people are likely to be more aware of it.

However, while construction on Riverside Drive continues, other projects are wrapping up, such as the Gateway Project along North Dubuque Street.

“I just appreciate everyone that travels on Dubuque Street for being patient,” special-project administrator Melissa Clow said. “We’ve been able to keep moving forward.”

Despite setbacks because of excessive rain, Clow said, all travel lanes on Dubuque are open, and the remaining work consists of street-light installation, seeding and landscaping, and a traffic barrier rail.

Construction on the new Park Road Bridge at the intersection with Dubuque Street and elevating Dubuque was a consequence of the 2008 flood. Clow said the Gateway Project proved itself this fall when flooding did not significantly affect traffic or the nearby Mayflower Hall.

“If Dubuque hadn’t been elevated, we would have been looking at closing the road,” Clow said. “So it’s performing really well, traffic’s been maintained, and students are still at Mayflower.”