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Frustrations Increase as Construction Starts On Blairs Ferry Road

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa - Construction is underway along a busy roadway, and drivers need to steer clear for the foreseeable future.

Blairs Ferry Road from Wayside Circle to Deer Ridge Drive is closed for the next five to six weeks as workers pour a new concrete surface on the roadway. It's the portion of road that many use to get from Palo to Cedar Rapids.

It's usually filled with thousands of cars each day, but now is surrounded by orange signs and construction equipment.

"There are going to be lots of people that are put out of their normal routine," said Linn County Engineer Steve Gannon.

Jerrad Swestka is one of those people. He lives in Palo and makes the route to Cedar Rapids about three times a day, using Blairs Ferry Road.

"It's such a hassle for so many people that live out there," Swestka said.

Until recently, Jerrad said he knew nothing about the project. He's frustrated with the county.

"So many people in Palo, Shellsburg, they use that section of road daily and work in Cedar Rapids. So, obviously that's a main thoroughfare for us, so I think it should have been better communication to us as well," Swestka said.

Gannon said hundreds of letters went out to people near the construction zone. The county engineers depend on the county's website and email system to notify others. He said this was not a new project.

"This has been on our five year plan for five years," Gannon said.

The county put an official detour in place, but Gannon said people aren't following the route. Many are traveling through neighborhoods and on gravel roads in search of a shorter path. Some are even ignoring the road closed signs all together.

"Essentially, the barricades are wide enough to let the concrete trucks get through for the work to proceed but other people are coming inside the construction area, and then they cause problems both for the contactor and for the people who live in there," Gannon said.

The issues got bad enough that the county asked the sheriff's office to step in. Now deputies are handing out tickets to those not obeying the laws.

Engineers said people need to plan extra time for the planned detour. Many drivers are ready for the project to be over. People who normally use Blairs Ferry to get to Cedar Rapids said it can take quite a bit longer to reach the city.

The project is slated to be complete by mid-October.

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