LINN COUNTY, Iowa - Some residents along a rural Linn County road have been dealing with clouds of gravel dust in recent weeks. They said a nearby construction project on County Home Road has been diverting some traffic their way, kicking up dust that’s been coating their property, causing visibility hazards, and even raising concerns about health problems.
“About the last week it’s been really bad,” said Mike Leete, who’s lived on Stone Road for 35 years. “My wife almost got rear-ended at the driveway by a rock truck. It was so dusty, he couldn’t see her, and there was a car ahead of her, and she couldn’t see.”
Neighbor Dave Machula has been experiencing the same problem.
“My take on it, they’ve just ground the gravel up, and it’s just powder now.”
Leete -and a few of his neighbors - have a small stretch of road in front of their homes treated with tree sap to keep that powder down.
“We get 300 feet sealed for $450,” Leet said, pointing to the piece of gravel road with a darker tint near the edge of his property.
But Leet and other residents said even with that, sometimes it’s still not enough when the wind comes out of a certain direction.
Linn County Engineer Steve Gannon said most people in the country know dust is part of living near gravel roads, “but when they get extra traffic, a lot of people don’t like that. Who would?”
Gannon said the county and the Department of Transportation monitor traffic patterns to see how drivers are choosing to bypass construction areas. He said people often take bumpy gravel routes, even if it means cutting only a few minutes out of their drive.
“They live close by, they don’t want to drive an extra 8 or 10 miles on a better road,” said Gannon, “so, they take a shorter detour of their own.”
Gannon and Leete agree, speed is another concern.
“They need to probably put a deputy on it once in a while to slow these people down,” Leete said of his road.
Gannon said if people take these roads a bit slower, that helps keep dust down. Until he sees a certain number of vehicles per day along roads like this, the county won’t foot the bill for thousands of dollars in dust control.
“We look at traffic,” Gannon explained. “250 cars a day is our trigger for putting some dust control down.”
Gannon said there are other roads people can take in this area that have been dust-treated, like Jordan’s Grove, which is just west of Stone Road. If you do decide to take a gravel road, he suggests taking it slow to be safe.