With Growth in Cedar Falls, Can Highway 58 Handle All This Traffic?

By Chris Earl, KCRG-TV9

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — With dozens of people attending a Tuesday meeting to learn more about the future of the city’s busiest stretch of road, the thousands of people who drive on Highway 58 feel the effects every day.

The Highway 58 corridor through Cedar Falls has been open since 1994. Yet, as the city has experienced sharp growth with housing and commercial development, the road itself is approaching a breaking point.

City Engineer Randy Lorenzen offered a 46-page presentation on Tuesday night at a public informational meeting in Cedar Falls. The study resulted from findings through the Iowa DOT and other traffic sources.

“The corridor study tells us the existing traffic is excessive for what (Highway 58) is designed for and it’s only going to get worse as time goes on,” said Lorenzen in a Wednesday interview.

Some of the more noteworthy findings:

— The Highway 58 and Viking Road intersection has jumped up from the 13th ranked in Iowa’s Intersection Safety Improvement candidates to fourth since the previous meetings in October 2013.

— For traffic flow at Highway 58 and Viking, the northbound daily traffic on 58 has increased from about 17,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2013.

— On Viking Road east of Highway 58, a sharp increase in daily traffic, from 2,000 vehicles in 2001 to nearly 19,000 in 2013.

— Between 2008-2012, 168 crashes, including two fatalities, reported on Highway 58 between Ridgeway Avenue and Greenhill Road.

As Cedar Falls experienced such acute growth, will Highway 58 need upgrades soon? Lorenzen said that 2017 is a time point where drivers could see improvements.

“They (Department of Transportation) have funds programmed for some improvements in 2017 and the city has funds for a program at the same time,” said Lorenzen. “We get through the study and we’re hoping that, by 2017, you’ll see changes coming at Viking at 58.”

Yet the options to improve the four intersections of Highway 58 (Greenhill Road, Viking Road, Ridgeway Avenue and U.S. Highway 20) also vary in cost and features. Lorenzen said improving the current exit at U.S. 20 and Highway 58 and replacing the three traffic lights (Greenhill, Viking, Ridgeway) with controlled-access exits would be ideal but also acknowledges a much higher cost.

“That’s what the study shows as the ultimate plan,” said Lorenzen. “The cost of doing those in the short term is very, very high and that’s why we’re going to try and get the plan together and focus on Viking and 58.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8609; chris.earl@sourcemedia.net

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