EVANSDALE, Iowa- The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to spend $600-million dollars on road construction projects throughout Iowa this year. But a little more than $12-million dollars of work taking place along Evansdale in Black Hawk County could create as much traffic disruption as anywhere else.
Seven miles of I-380 from the U.S. 20 interchange to River Forest Road in Evansdale will shrink to just one lane each way beginning Monday. And the delays at that bottleneck will last all through summer.
Road crews rebuilt one half of the interstate in the exact same area last year. And it did create a traffic bottleneck on the eastern edge of Waterloo during busy traffic times. DOT planners say the same thing will probably happen again as reconstruction work shifts to the other side.
Connie Esch said she remembers some of the wait times to get through that stretch of I-380 last year.
"It was a half hour to 45 minutes for me, but I learned to go a different way," Esch said.
Another motorist, Mary Dettmer said the delay was just miserable.
"It was like being out stuck in traffic in the snow in wintertime. But this was even worse," she said.
On Monday, crews will re-direct traffic to one lane one each side of the highway while they prepare crossover points. Sometime in mid-May, they'll close one side of the highway and direct two way traffic to just one side of the interstate. Based on what happened in 2012, that's when the real traffic jams should start.
Jade Allspach, a manager at a McDonalds, said even though her Evansdale interchange stayed open, not as much traffic left the roadway to do business.
"They (drivers) don't want to get off. They don't want to lose their place in line. It hurts any business in the surrounding area," Allspach said.
Highway planners acknowledge the seven mile stretch was a particular problem last year, in part, because there's not a good alternative route for through traffic to get to Waterloo. Many local drivers learned to avoid the area during the morning and evening rush. The DOT says other drivers would be wise to do the same.
The roadwork is scheduled to last until the end of September. But it wrapped up a month early in 2012 due to near perfect construction weather. But one DOT planner said that near perfect weather was the result of a statewide drought and no one probably wants a repeat of that just to speed up some road construction.